A Study into the Business Side of Social Media
Today, more than 3.23 billion individuals use social media across the globe. Whether it is for business or personal reasons, it’s become a major part of the lives of billions of people worldwide.
According to Emarketer, in 2019, 90.4% of Millennials, 77.5% of Generation X, and 48.2% of Baby Boomers were active social media users. But with all of these users ranging across a wide variety of ages, I wondered who, out of these different generations, were using social media for business purposes? Fortunately, I’ve been interning at a digital marketing agency for the last couple of months. So, I got the go-ahead to conduct a study to see what I could learn.
My study was conducted over the course of three months starting with a survey and now the analysis with responses. The objective was simple: to understand how each generation uses social media and what it will take to get each generation to use social media more regularly for business purposes. The target group included 18-50-year-olds, women or men, in the United States, mainly West and East Coast (sorry Texas!).
Out of 100 responses who participated in the study, 18-25-year-olds dominated the survey as they accounted for 60.87% of this survey’s population. Next were 46-55-year-olds which was 18.84%. From these numbers, we can conclude that the majority of the survey’s responses were from the age range of 18-25. In addition to filling out our survey, I also interviewed 5 people who participated so that I could get extra context around their answer choices.
My hope is that by reading my findings, you will have a better perspective of how different generations use social media for business purposes. Our team and I have also given our recommendations based on the results so that you can learn of other uses, features, or content on social media you might not have considered before. So I encourage you to take our findings back to your own business and/or your friends and apply the recommendations we suggest.
With that, let’s dive into the results!
Table of contents:
The Survey Results
Q1: What are the business or professional reasons you use social media?
For question 1, the highest percentage of respondents use social media for business networking and to learn about companies or industries they might want to engage with. Far fewer responded that they use social media to grow their business by either finding new customers or building their brand.
This suggests users may not be leveraging social media to the fullest extent possible, which could be a mistake since 73% of marketers believe that social media is an effective tool for growing their business.
Q2: What social media platforms do you use for business purposes?
The social media landscape is constantly changing, especially with features on various different platforms. This evolution is also changing an individual’s usage of different types of social media.
We asked participants about their usage of seven different social media platforms for business purposes; Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok, and YouTube.
LinkedIn was far and away from the most popular choice, performing at 82% or 82 responses. All age groups chose this answer as they use the platform and its features solely for business purposes which makes sense as LinkedIn is one of the only social media platforms built solely for business and networking.
The second choice was Facebook at 59% or 59 responses for business purposes across all age ranges. Similar to LinkedIn, Facebook offers a business side to the platform with features for networking and connecting, but also offers a personal side where users can post about their everyday life. So it’s not surprising to learn that Facebook is the most widely used social media platform across all ages.
If you feel that you would have put either LinkedIn and/or Facebook in one of the top 2 spots, we recommend that your network, interact with other users in your industry, and utilize these platforms for content marketing to boost awareness and engagement with your target audience.
Another great way to get to know all of the ins and outs of these platforms is to study social media algorithms. Facebook ranks posts that a user is likely to enjoy while LinkedIn prioritizes relevant content to increase the user’s engagement rate. We can conclude from this survey question that LinkedIn and Facebook are the top two most used social media platforms for business purposes in the age group 18-56+.
Instagram came in in third place with 41% or 41 responses. I wasn’t surprised with this result because while lots of businesses have seen success using Instagram for awareness, leads, and/or revenue, Instagram is more of a visual platform that isn’t as applicable to all businesses. Instagram’s algorithm has ranking signals that are based on the relationship, interest, and timelines of the user.
Therefore, we recommend following professionals in your industry and posting content to gain awareness, drive engagement, and position yourself as an expert in your field. Network and interact with other users in your industry and post content to gain awareness and engagement for the company. Also, if you’re trying to go outside of the business side of Instagram, follow more casual accounts that you find personal interest in.
Twitter, Snapchat, TikTok, and Youtube came in as the least used. While it’s not surprising that TikTok generated only a few selections, it was a little surprising to see that Twitter and Youtube weren’t selected more frequently. Twitter has been the epicenter of many professional media outlets and many of their users rely on Twitter to access breaking news about all sorts of topics. While YouTube is mainly delivering content aimed at consumers, companies are increasingly investing time and money into their own branded YouTube channels. For example, influencers like Gary Vaynerchuk are utilizing all of these platforms to improve their personal brand and their business interests. So, we encourage readers to think outside of the box and see where there may be opportunities to do the same.
Q3: What type of content do you post on social media?
Based on our findings, the highest percentage of respondents post individual content on social media. Far fewer responded that they post news or articles, work-related content, and client’s work. This suggests users are not leveraging posting business content on social media, which could be a mistake since 73% of marketers believe that social media is an effective tool for growing their business. Therefore, we recommend taking some time to learn more about how you can utilize social media to grow your brand through tools like Facebook Business Manager and LinkedIn for business.
Based on this finding, we recommend users post consistently and publish a mixture of their everyday life including friends, family, work-related content, food, etc. After all, regularly featuring a variety of content that includes both professional and personal content boosts engagement on social media.
The second most popular response was “news or articles: comments, likes, shares to social media content” at 57.73% or 56 responses. To get the most juice for your squeeze here, we recommend sharing news articles that you think your audience would enjoy and share your reaction to that article in an engaging way. Better yet, end your comment with a question to get others engaged in the conversation.
Q4: What type of content do you WANT to be shown in your feed?
Q5: What type of content do you CURRENTLY HAVE shown in your feed?
Before going into the results, these questions were key in the survey. I asked myself, what types of content are interesting to individuals in general? More specifically, what content do they see for business purposes? These questions are important to see what individuals already see in their feed but also what content they would like to see more of so we can provide them with recommendations to do so. From the survey, we can see that the majority of users both want and do see the everyday life of the folks they’re following, with industry news coming in second at 88.78% and 44.90% respectively.
We surmise that social media platforms have optimized their algorithms enough to become more effective at showing relevant content to users, however, we recommend following a variety of accounts that will diversify your news feed- friends, colleagues, business platforms, and partners.
Doing so will give you a better chance of finding commonalities and opportunities for entertainment, business engagement, and networking.
Q6: How much B2B (Business-to-Business) content do you engage with on social media?
Nearly 60% of our respondents stated that they utilize social media to engage with B2B content never to a quarter of the time. This is in line with another study by Statista that stated only 22% of surveyors utilize social media for B2B content.
The stats indicate a clear opportunity for professionals to fill a gap and a potentially lucrative opportunity to grow their target market. We recommend that users explore new B2B organizations’ outside of their usual following, like Forbes and Salesforce. You might find these platforms beneficial to your work, or mutual connections for networking, or learning of new patterns emerging in the business market.
Overall, we can conclude that the majority of respondents are not interacting with as much B2B content as expected before the survey. Since the majority of the survey respondents turned out to be in the 18-25 age group, this explains why the most chosen was 0%-25% and why 26-50 responded with 26%-50% or higher for this question. Thinking about their career, while a priority, isn’t the main priority for this demographic.
Q7: What percentage of time do you spend on social media professionally vs. personally?
Q8: Please finish the sentence. In the next 10 years, I will spend more time on social media for…
While the majority of respondents answered that 60% of their social media time is spent on personal use, nearly 73% stated that they plan to use social media for either professional or both professional and personal reasons in the future.
With the COVID-19 pandemic changing the way many people find and do work we expect more people to utilize social media for professional reasons in 2021. We’re not the only ones who think so. Put simply, more individuals are actually using social platforms for business now than ever before.
If you want to stay ahead, continue learning more about how to use social media for professional purposes right away. This also includes any new and upcoming social media platforms that you can utilize for business purposes. Whether you are a business owner or not, it’s clear that using digital platforms to connect with professionals and do business with other businesses is no longer the future. It’s now the present. It’s to your advantage to learn how to adapt and utilize these channels to further your professional career.
Q9: How important is it for younger audiences to understand the importance of using social media for business or professional purposes?
Q10: How important is it for older audiences to understand the importance of using social media for business or professional purposes?
More than half of respondents agreed that it was very important for younger audiences to understand the importance of using social media for business, and nearly half said the same for older audiences. It’s clear why. The future of business is digital, and that includes older users with The Bureau of Labor Statistics stating that baby boomers are expected to continue working even after they qualify for Social Security retirement benefits.
Digital includes social media. The development by Facebook, the largest social media platform, to expand on customers’ ability to engage in eCommerce through its platform is a clear indicator that social media is going to play a large role in digital transformation in 2021 and beyond. It’s transforming the way business can be done.
Furthermore, the Forrester 2021 predictions we linked above, stated that “Digital engagement will become the number one driver of customer value in 2021.”
We’ve included the responses for both the age range and gender of respondents to add transparency to this survey and its findings. Overall, there was a good mix of both gender and age range for the survey, with 18-25-year-olds making up the majority of respondents.
Since social media is so prevalent in younger audiences’ lives, we thought it was interesting that the percentage for this question was higher from younger respondents. Is this because social media plays a larger role in their lives than those who are older? In my opinion, I agree completely. Unlike my parent’s generation and others older than theirs, my generation has grown up with social media. As social media has evolved, so have we. It’s become so ingrained in individual’s daily routines that we rarely ever think about what life would be like without social media. Having that said, younger respondents might see social media as super important for everyone to use and understand while other respondents disagree.
More on Our Sample Group
East Coast vs. West Coast
We also noted a clear divide between answers from the West Coast and East Coast.
Since California was the targeted demographic location for this survey, most of the responses from the West Coast are from major cities within California such as San Francisco and Los Angeles.
However, as the survey became more widespread across California, more cities on the west coast including Seattle and Portland became more involved. The majority of respondents from the West Coast were in the first targeted age group of 18-25. Beyond that were respondents in that same age group from Indiana, New York, Illinois, and more.
“LinkedIn is definitely more for building your professional brand rather than Twitter and other similar platforms that are used for more colloquial or casual reasons.”
– West Coast Respondent in 18-25 Age Group
Overall, we can conclude from the survey that respondents from the West Coast use social media for personal reasons. Taking into account that the majority of respondents from both the West Coast and East Coast were in the 18-25 age group, and because most of the answers came from 18-25-year-old respondents, it’s clear that the main reason they use social media is for personal reasons. On the other hand, the second targeted age group of individuals in their 40s-50s said they use social media for both personal and business purposes.
Similar to the West Coast, 18-25-year-old respondents mainly use social media for personal reasons with some exceptions to industry news and following certain B2C brands. However, the majority of respondents on the East Coast were not in the 18-25 age groups but rather in the 36-45 age group, 46-55 age group, and the 56+ age group.
As expected, respondents’ answers of the 18-25 age range had some differences from those of the 46-55 age range. However, what wasn’t expected was some similarities in those same age ranges regarding what social media platforms they use and what content they enjoy posting or like to see. These are just among the many differences and similarities within these age groups.
“Instagram and other more casual platforms provide more brand content with B2C companies rather than more professional known platforms such as LinkedIn.”
– West Coast Respondent in 18-25 Age Group
As stated in the above analysis, 18-25 dominated this survey. However, there were a few trends in this age group that stand out. Most 18-25-year-olds use social media for business purposes like networking, learning about companies and industries, finding jobs, and starting to create their professional brand. This is very similar to other age groups in this survey, which mainly use LinkedIn for these reasons.
A lot of respondents in this age group also use Instagram for business purposes unlike those of the other age groups. Since Instagram offers some business tools along with personal purposes, this stuck out in the survey. Not only are 18-25-year-old respondents using LinkedIn solely for business purposes but they’re also going further and using Instagram for brand deals, branded content, academics, job searching on the company’s Instagram accounts, and even more.
“There are a lot of influencers on social media and there’s a lot of outreach. If you have a big platform, companies are more willing to reach out to you with opportunities. But this only really happens if you have already branded yourself on all social media platforms.”
– East Coast Respondent in 18-25 Age Group
We can conclude that Instagram is more popular in the 18-25 age range than other ages and LinkedIn is popular with all age groups. While they don’t post business content as much as other respondents do, this age group interacts with business content whether its brands or networking on LinkedIn, Facebook, and Instagram. The majority said they would get into professional social media in the next few years and in 10 years, they saw themselves using social media for both professional and personal.
In the analysis, 46-55 was the second age group that dominated this survey. There were a few trends in this age group that stood out but a lot was expected before even conducting the survey.
Most 46-55-year-olds use social media for networking, learning about companies and industries, finding jobs, building their professional brand, and finding customers. These answers varied a lot from the 18-25 age group as the majority of these respondents from this survey are employed and have more job experience. Just like other age groups in this survey, they mainly use LinkedIn for these reasons.
“Facebook and LinkedIn are easy ways companies can promote their products. That’s mainly what I want and need to see in my feed because it’s for work purposes.”
– East Coast Respondent in 45-56 Age Group
Another important social media platform that they use is Facebook which not many 18-25-year-olds answered with. Since Facebook offers some elements of business and networking along with personal purposes, this stuck out in the survey.
“The future is social media. Whether it’s for professional or personal reasons, the generations of today must learn how to use social media at such a young age because it’s a major part of their future.”
– East Coast Respondent in 36-50 Age Group
The goal of this whitepaper was to see how each generation uses social media for business purposes. Based on our findings it is clear that social media has a larger role in every generation’s day-to-day life. The challenge, and thus the opportunity, is how people can successfully grasp the multitude of ways social media can be used both personally and professionally.
Age and location both played factors in someone’s decision making. Without these two elements, it would have been hard to come to a conclusion about the survey based on the respondents’ answers. Because these two themes dominate our findings, it’s important to ask yourself if where you live and what your age is consistent with the findings of our study. If our findings resonate with you, we encourage you to apply the recommendations we suggest.
Now you have the resources within reach to not only leverage social media for professional reasons but to also get something out of the investment you make into your career.
Topics: Social Media