There are some clear limits to social media listening at this point in time. Twitter is the most consulted social media platform as a result of its default towards publicly available data, but it is not entirely representative of the general public. Social network users skew younger, more female, and than the general US population. Hispanics and Asians are slightly underrepresented on Twitter (by about 3% each).
The demographics that make up Twitter and other online platforms are rapidly changing (the service nearly doubled its number of users in 2012) and may be more democratic than cynics suppose. According to the Pew Research Center, 67% of US internet users are on Facebook, and 16% use Twitter. Twitter is especially appealing to adults age 18-29, urban residents, and African-Americans. These numbers are significantly higher than they were just a few short years ago, and African-Americans’ heavy usage of Twitter is a reversal of years’ worth of findings concerning the “digital divide.” The dominance of female users on social networks like LinkedIn, Flickr, Facebook, Twitter, and Pinterest likewise reverse years of concern over a male-dominated web. Regardless, it’s clear that various social media platforms skew different ways, demographically, and attempts to monitor social media for the emergence of population needs must be keenly aware of representation issues (especially in an international context, where platforms vary more widely related demographic data more difficult to attain).
Figure 3.7: Gender amongst users of popular social media sites