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Social Media Commerce: Understand Your Customer Demographics

If you want to expand your customer base through social media, you need to understand your customer demographics. Who is your customer? As a professional or a business owner who is on the premises every day, you probably have a pretty good idea with whom you transact business. Eyeballing your customers at the register is a simple way to profile for your Internet outreach.

If you’d like to expand your customer base in your local area, you might look to recent demographic data. Most data that you find is based on the United States census. (Be sure to check which year’s census is quoted when you look up something.)

However, the problem with using census data is that it is updated at the start of each decade. If the census is more than five years old, the data may have changed drastically.

Different generational cohorts — such as baby boomers, Gen Y, and Gen X — visit diverse sites and have specific preferences as to how they choose to interact on the web. Studying the peculiarities of each demographic segment helps you come closer to understanding their online preferences. By seeing what makes the various generations tick, you’ll be better at positioning your social media outreach.

Find your customers on their own turf. With a little luck, these locations are the same places that best suit your own personality, company culture, and outreach style.

People make blanket statements regarding buying patterns and activities based on a population’s stage in life. As an entrepreneur, your experiences with customers of various generations may shoot holes in these categorizations. But when you need a baseline, commonly accepted generational standards can be used to define demographic groups and classify them by age and the mores of their contemporaries.

The Pew Research Center (a nonpartisan “fact-tank”) first surveyed users about the general role of the Internet in people’s lives in March 2000. The Pew Internet & American Life Project continues to regularly track Internet users. A portion of their survey studies the demographics of Internet users 18 and older. This table outlines the interesting results of their August 2012 survey.

Demographics of Internet Users
Internet Users
All adults 81%
Men 81%
Women 81%
Race/ethnicity
White, non-Hispanic 83%
Black, non-Hispanic 74%
Hispanic (English- and Spanish-speaking) 73%
Age
18–29 95%
30–49 89%
50–64 77%
65+ 52%
Household income
Less than $30,000/yr 68%
$30,000–$49,999 86%
$50,000–$74,999 95%
$75,000+ 97%
Educational attainment
No high school diploma 47%
High school grad 72%
Some college 90%
College + 96%
Source: Pew Internet Summer Tracking Survey, conducted August 7–September 6, 2012. N=3,014 adults age 18 and older. Interviews were conducted in English and Spanish and on landlines and cell phones.
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