We Are Social have just published their “Social, Digital & Mobile Worldwide in 2014” report, and they study provides a wealth of insights for marketers in the tourism industry. The first thing to note from the report is that both Internet and social media penetration continue to increase.

Rising Social Media Penetration

According to We Are Social, during the calendar year 2014, Internet penetration will ramp up to 35 percent, with most of these Internet users utilising social media to at least some extent. Thus, We Are Social believes that social media penetration within the world population is around 26 percent at this point in time. This effectively means that there is a worldwide social media audience of nearly 2 billion people.

There are many other interesting lessons to take out of this extremely authoritative and detailed report. One of the things that travel marketers may particularly wish to know is the amount of time that people are spending on social media nowadays. For example, according to the report, social media users in the United States actually spend over two hours a day on social media. This is no longer an activity that people dip into for a few minutes; social media has become a significant part of people’s lives.

It is easy to view social media as one vast, amorphous blob of users, but in fact the major social media sites attract significantly different demographics. Every social media size in fact attracts a very specific audience, which is interesting given that the whole concept of social media often implies a user base which doesn't greatly differ between platforms.

Contrasting Demographics

However, it is quite logical when considered that each social media site has a vastly different audience, as effectively they all offer contrasting services. Comparing the image of LinkedIn to Instagram would inevitably lead anyone to conclude that their target market and tone are completely different.

This notion is reflected in the statistics compiled by We Are Social. For example, in the United States, women are significantly more likely to utilise Facebook that men. The gap between the two genders' usage of Facebook differs by about 10 percentage points. Facebook also attracts more adolescent uses that any other social network in the United States, indicating that this social media platform provides the ideal opportunity to target both young people and women.

However, Facebook has in fact lost ground against Instagram to some extent. Teenagers in the United States now describe Instagram as the world's most important social media platform, with both Facebook and Twitter losing popularity with this important demographic. According to the report, 83 percent of teenagers in the United States who reside in wealthy households currently use Instagram on a regular basis.

This hugely contrasts with the core demographic and audience of LinkedIn. This corporate-focused social media site attracts an audience which is primarily aged between 30 and 49; i.e. an audience which is in the prime of its career development. LinkedIn has grown rapidly in its relatively short life to the degree where the social media site is now more popular than Twitter among US adults. We Are Social noted that there were more adults in the United States that were regular users of LinkedIn than Twitter.

Another interesting demographic related to Twitter is that the site appears to have acquired popularity with males more than females. This is an intriguing, given that the general perception might be completely opposed to this. However, according to the We Are Social study, 22 percent of men use Twitter, as opposed to only 15 percent of women.

YouTube Overtaking TV

It’s not merely a social media which is changing the way that businesses operate and in particularly market. Almost everyone in the Western world has accessed YouTube at some point or other, and this is reflected by a statistic in the report which suggests that YouTube reaches more adults aged 18 to 34 than any single cable TV network.

The key millennial demographic in fact rates YouTube as the best place in the world to watch video content, ahead of traditional media companies such as television stations, and also Facebook.

While the most prominent social media sites attract a huge amount of the marketplace, there are new players popping up all the time. One such social media site is Snapchat, and this has made a particularly strong impression with a young demographic. Although Snapchat has yet to attract the sort of mumbers associated with the largest sites in the social media sphere, it is particularly popular with young people; 60 percent of Snapchat users are in fact aged between 18 and 24. To put this into perspective, the same figure is around 28 percent for Instagram, despite its young audience.

This only scratches the surface of all of the information available in the We Are Social report, so all travel marketers would be advised to access the full report online. As social media marketing becomes increasingly important for tourism-related businesses, acquiring as much information as possible about this critical commercial opportunity is of paramount importance.

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