With Social Media, Demographics Are Dead: “I Am Not A Number….”

prisonertheI always find inspiration from the TED conference presentations. One of the videos they highlighted this past week was Johanna Blakley, Deputy Director of the Norman Lear Center, talking about “Social media and the end of gender.” This is an interesting presentation for a number of reasons. First, I like the way she deconstructs demographics as a way to measure response. For too long, marketing professionals have been pigeon-holing their audience, their target market, by defining them by such stereotypes as age, gender, race, and income. One size does not fit all. (Whenever I think of the broad assumptions that marketers make about me I flash on Patrick McGoohan from the old series “The Prisoner” shouting, “I am not a number, I am a free man!”)

Many of the points Blakley shares are poignant, but the thing I really like about this presentation is that is shows how social media can be truly harnessed as a tool to communicate with others of like interest. It’s not about how old you are or how much you earn, but where your passion lies that matters. Social media allows you to express that, and it allows you to connect with others (including companies) that share that passion. Social media offers a unique opportunity to talk to others who have similar interests or needs or concerns, and that is the real power of social media for marketers. It’s also the reason why you have to engage in conversation rather than shout about your wares.

I also was intrigued by Blakley’s observation that women are more active on social media and may be easier to target. That’s no surprise, frankly. I observe how my wife has taken to Facebook as a means to share insights about kids, politics, local happenings, you name it. She strikes me as the typical Facebook user, and she uses it as an online back fence over which she can gossip with her friends, share her views, and catch up with old buddies. Us guys, who speak in monosyllabic grunts, aren’t driven by the same motivators.

So what does this tell us as marketers. It tells us to micro-target. Think about unique areas of interest and not demographics. We can now target prospective clients and customers based on their areas of need and interest, which is much more relevant than anything gleaned from demographics. It’s time to engage.


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