Figuring out where your target audience is spending their time on the social web and what they are doing is an important prelude to crafting a social media strategy. This is a different activity than "listening." Thankfully, there is lots of research available about people who are using particular social media sites or tools. While there is no substitute for a commissioned market research study of you existing audiences' social media usage, you can certainly glean a lot of useful tidbits from secondary research reports. And, did I mention they are free?
The only time you'll spend is tracking them down. Well, now you can spend your time on analyzing it because this week's NpTech Summary points to the best of the best free research studies on social media usage, adoption, and other snippets.
1. The Definitive List of Social Networking Sites and User Numbers: Wikipedia has a list of the major social networking sites in grid form, with a link to the site, a brief description, and number of registered users. In the footnotes, you will find links to recently published reports from reliable sources.
2. Comparisons: Compete provides free information for over a million web sites, including site traffic history and other metrics. You can generate nifty comparison charts and graphs - for example compare the site visits of Myspace to Facebook to Hi5. You'll want to pop the feed for the Compete Blog into your reader. While many posts cover studies that won't necessarily be relevant for nonprofits, the ones tagged with social web are worth their weight in gold. Take for example this post about social networking site membership overlap across sites which is useful helping you choose which sites you want to explore first.
3. Who's Tracking Social Media Research Studies: The Read/Write Web does a great job of consistently tracking and highlighting key findings from social media research studies. If you subscribe to the Read/Write web, you already know that. But, if you're on the prowl for (free) audience data, try cruising through the posts tagged with "statistics" and "research." Mashable also covers social media research studies, browse posts tagged with "statistics" and "research," but you can cut to the chase with Aaron Uhrmacher's "How to Find Statistics on Social Media."
4. Pew Internet and the American Life Project: This is one of the best resources for nonprofits. The research explores the impact of the Internet on children, families, communities, the work place, schools, health care and civic/political life. There are regularly published reports about online activities which also include social media usage. Take for example these recent reports on podcast downloads and video sharing.
5. Twitter Traffic and Demographics: The best and most recent round up of Twitter statistics comes from Compete Blog. You can also track Twitter traffic and trends on Compete as well.
6. Deep and Wide Social Media Research: Want an encyclopedia of social media statistics? One of the most popular studies that looks at who is using what social media tools and how is the Universal McCann's Social Media Research Wave 3 research report, which looked at 17,000 Internet users in 29 countries. It is filled with attractive charts and graphs, take for example this one of social networking site usage.
On the other hand, maybe you want take a deep dive into data about one specific tool or site. Check out this extensive Facebook study by FaberNovel or if you are curious about Facebook applications installations, the place for metrics is Adnomics.
7. Global Social Media Usage: What if your audience is from outside the United States and need to data that less US-centric. Morgan Stanley publishes a regular report on Internet Trends that includes comprehensive statistics for social media and social networking sites from around the world. Here's a summary from TechCrunch of the March, 2008 with some highlights.
8. Technographics: This resource comes from Forrester, from Charlene Li and Josh Bernhoff and as documented in the book Groundswell. It's an online tool where you can add some basic information and see what people are doing on the social web across different demographic groups. Here's a slide show that explains the different online social activities. In Australia, Lynda Kelly and Angelina Russo did research of museum goers and applied the technographics methodology of Forrester to Austrailian museum visitors.
9. Unusual Statistics on Web 2.0 Use: The Spire Project at Oxford University ran a survey to discover what online services people were using and in what manner. The full study is here. While the results are more than a year old, this study has information that others do not. Take for example the lurker ratios across different sites. Nortel recently did a study of the "hyper connected," heavy users of social media - that also provides insights not typically found in other studies.
10. Social Media Adoption Rates in Nonprofit Sector: Nora Barnes and Eric Mattson at University of Massachusetts Dartmouth surveyed the 200 largest nonprofits and found that they are adopting social media at a much faster pace than the business world, with 75 percent using some form of social media like blogs, social networking sites, podcasts, wikis or other formats.
Outside research studies are not only useful for informing your first ever social media strategy, but you may need to pull statistics to prepare a case for senior managers. And, if you have calculate ROI, having a collection of secondary research and statistics can help you too.
You don't need to waste time creating presentation slides from scratch. I'm tracking social media usage studies and pulling interesting screencaptures from studies as I catch them in my RSS Reader. You'll find them in this set on Flickr called "Social Media Snack Facts" with links to the original study. I always (try) to tag them with nptech. If you're looking for interesting snippets, Lynetter creates awesome presentation slides with creative commons licensed photos illustrating an important demographic.
What social media research studies have you used to help inform your social media strategy, convince upper management, or prepare ROI study?