Defining your target audience is key to your brand messaging. In Episode 2 of Social Strategy Fundamentals, we walk through finding your audience based on demographics and how to tailor your strategies to the platforms they're on.
As of May 2021, Facebook accounted for almost 72% of all social media visits, maintaining its position as the most used social media site in the U.S. The platform reached 226 million active users in the United States and Canada by the end of 2021. Use by age group is relatively spread out, with the lowest number of users ages 13–17 (4%).
- Ages 18–24: 17%
- Ages 25–34: 25%
- Ages 35–44: 19%
- Ages 45–54: 14%
- Ages 55–64: 11%
- Ages 65+: 10%
Facebook has also been in the news recently, and received criticism over its name change. A Washington Post survey found that 72% of Internet users trust Facebook “not much” or “not at all”—the least trusted of the social platforms included in the survey. The 2022 Edelman Trust Barometer found that trust in social media is falling, especially when compared to other industry sectors.
Takeaways: As the largest social network, some of your audience is bound to be on Facebook and, given the age demographics, it’s likely a place you can reach parents and alumni. Facebook Groups allows you to build relationships through community, especially if you target prospects, current students, parents, etc. As you assess your Facebook content strategy, consider Facebook’s values, how they align with higher ed as an industry, and how they align with your own campus’s brand values, as explained by Jenny Petty, Vice President for Marketing and Communications, University of Montana.
YouTube claims over 2 billion monthly logged-in users. In the U.S., the average android user spends 22 hours on the app and 99% of its users are on other social platforms. YouTube users trend young and identify as male—20% of users are male and ages 18-34. In the same age group, 15% of users identified as female. 92% of internet users ages 16–64 watch some kind of video content each week.
A survey from Niche and Tudor Strategies found that YouTube ranks third with high school juniors in their social media usage and college search efforts.
Takeaways: Video content continues to gain popularity. If video is part of your content strategy, increase the reach of your content by repurposing it between any of the video platforms where you have a presence (YouTube, Instagram Reels, and TikTok). If you’re considering adding YouTube to your content strategy, make sure you consider if the platform aligns with your goals and understand how you can make the most of the platform.
Twitter usage has remained consistent over the last few years, with about 23% of U.S. adults saying they use Twitter. Users are generally educated with 33% of users having some college education. The bulk of Twitter’s users are ages 18 to 49.
- 42% are ages 18–29
- 27% are ages 30–49
On average, users spend 31 minutes on the platform per day, and (as of November 2021) 39% of users have a very favorable or somewhat favorable opinion of Twitter. However, this may change with the recent change in ownership.
Another usage pattern remaining consistent with Twitter is the smaller number of users creating the majority of the content. As of November 2021, Pew Research found 25% of users generate 97% of the content. When users do post, 67% think only a few people see their content and 21% think nobody sees it. Pew also found that users mainly use Twitter for entertainment (74%) and as a way to stay informed (64%).
Takeaways: As we shared last year, Twitter is a platform where a smaller group of people have a lot to say. Listening is one way to learn more about your Twitter audience and if there’s conversation about your campus. The tips from our Social Listening Cheat Sheet help you give social listening a try.
With the coming changes in ownership, it’s a good idea to monitor updates to the platform and ensure it continues to align with your content strategy and messaging.
Instagram is the fourth most popular social app worldwide with 160 million active users in the United States. The majority of Instagram users are ages 18 to 34—30% are ages 18–24 and 32% are ages 25–34. Usage remained consistent with adults spending 29 minutes a day on Instagram.
For college search, Instagram is the most used platform with 67% of high school juniors using it to view colleges according to a survey from Niche and Tudor Strategies. It’s also the most used social platform for high school juniors.
Takeaways: As a visual platform with options for posts, stories, and short-form video, including Instagram in your strategy can help you increase your reach. The multiple formats also make it a great platform for easily repurposing content. It’s interactive nature also makes it a great app for generating user content and building engagement with your audience—57% of people like seeing polls and quizzes from brands on Instagram.
If you’re not on Instagram and you’ve confirmed it meets your goals by answering our questions (just substitute TikTok for Instagram), CSUSocial can help you get started with tips on launching an account and creating reels.
As of February 2021, 18% of internet users in the U.S. use Reddit. Aside from TikTok, it’s the fastest growing platform, increasing from 11% in 2019. The number of posts on Reddit increased 19% YoY in 2021. There are more than 100,000 active communities around the world and, according to Reddit, they’re a place where users feel empowered and inspired to share their opinions, experiences and stories.
Reddit’s users tend to be younger, male, educated, and urban or suburban.
- 36% of users are ages 18–29 and 22% of users ages 30–49.
- 23% of adult users identify as male and 12% as female.
- 26% have a college degree and 20% have some college.
- 21% are suburban and 18% are urban.
Takeaways: Students are talking about your campus on Reddit—they’re asking questions and answering them. Whether your campus posts on Reddit or not, it’s a platform you should be listening on to understand your students’ questions and concerns, and even gain competitive intelligence.
Snapchat has the largest age gap out of any social platform with a 63 year difference between the youngest and oldest users. The average daily use is 28 minutes, the lowest of any platform by just a few minutes. Of Snapchat’s users, 63% use augmented reality features every day. Snapchat content accommodates Gen Z’s attention span. As the app’s largest user group, they spend less time watching but indicate a 59% recall after engaging with advertisements or content.
Takeaways: Snapchat isn’t the go-to app for teenagers anymore (as you’ll read below, TikTok surpassed it), but your current and prospective students still use the app to socialize and communicate with friends and family. Given its target users, it’s a good platform to stay on top of and be aware of content your target audience is sharing. If it’s a platform you’re on, the visual nature allows you to engage in digital storytelling and repurpose content you’re sharing elsewhere.
At the end of 2021, TikTok overtook Instagram and Snapchat among Gen Z users. They gravitated towards TikTok for its entertainment value, short-form content, and positive self-expression. Almost half of all TikTok users are under age 29 with 25% of users ages 10–19 and 22% ages 20–29. Each month, users spend 19.6 hours per month.
Takeaways: If you’re considering adding TikTok to your content strategy, the first step might be to use social listening to find out if your audience is there. You can use simple searches to find your campus. The next step is to walk through our questions and answers to understand if the platform fits your campus goals. If you decide it’s a fit for you, the key to successful TikTok content is authentic, uncurated content. CSUSocial shared their path to planning and developing their TikTok channel with helpful tips and advice.
With platform changes, the most important thing is adjusting your audience and content strategy to make sure your brand strategy aligns with your audience needs and key messaging. The evolving nature of social media makes it something you need to constantly be aware of and ready to adapt, especially if your brand perception fragments from your brand goals.
Get More Trends
Knowing the channels your audience is on is the first step to understanding your audience. Our trends guide helps you learn from what your audience is saying so you can refine your strategy and craft messaging that resonates with them.