PR Research Tools: Social Media Consumption

Nov. 4, 2010, by Jasper | tags: research


Good Public Relations should begin with a clear picture of your target audience. What do they like? Where and how do you reach them? For example, before launching into a social campaign, you should find out if your audience actually uses social media, and which channels they use? 

We noticed it takes a lot of time finding even the most mundane of these stats through a Google search. Thus, we put together a list of great resources and added a new category to our PR directory: Research & Analysis. Here, you will find tools for collecting data on media consumption, brand awareness, socio economic data, and more. 

For example, we found the following useful tools for retrieving data on web stats and social media consumption:

DoubleClick ad planner by Google

ad planner

ad planner

 In my opinion, Google's ad planner it is the most powerful free source of online statistics. You want to know the most popular social media platform in China or the top 5 websites in Brazil? Ad Planner is your tool. 


Most popular websites, measured by no. of visitors or reach, according to:

  • Country, region and language
  • Demographics (gender, age, education, income)
  • Interests (e.g. "Finance", "Health" or "News")


Detailed stats for a single website, such as:

  • Unique visitors per country and reach (% of selected market)
  • Demographic data
  • Keywords searched for and "Sites also visited"


The major weakness is that Google itself and related sites are not included in the stats. The information is extrapolated from a smaller set of data from Google Toolbar users, Google Analytics data and (unspecified) "third-party market research". 






Alexa gives data for the most popular websites by country and topic, based on number of visitors and reach. It encompasses a vast range of sites, but gives less information than Ad Planner. In contrast to that site however, Alexa statistics include Google itself, which takes up the No.1 spot in most western countries.



TNS Digital Life


The Digital Life study published last month focuses on the use of social media across different countries. Rather than giving specific numbers for certain sites and networks, it provides a profile of social media consumers - dividing them in categories such as 'influencers", 'Aspirers' or 'Communicators'. It also compares the role of social media in different countries.

The study is based on interviews with almost 50,000 people across 46 countries, making it one of the largest social media studies to date.

TNS Digital Life


Universal McCann - Wave Studies

Since 2006, Universal McCann publishes a yearly study on social media use called Wave. This year's 'Wave 5' was based on a  37,600-person study of social media usage, across 53 markets. 

The study focuses on the question of why people engage in certain social activites online. For example, people visit forums to seek other people's opinion on something (such as a product review), while video sites are more about fun and entertainment. It then analyzes the role of brands in these social channels to see where and how certain brands can best engage their audience. 


Wave 5 - Sample page 25
Wave 5 - sample page 43
Wave 5 - sample page 62




Facebakers gives extensive statistics on Facebook, including:

  • Users per country - covering over 200 countries
  • Distribution of users by age group and gender
  • Most popular Groups and Pages
  • Most popular Facebook apps and developers


The statistics are generated using data from Facebook profiles, not accounting for inactive or "sleeper" accounts, people with multiple accounts or people who just lied in their profile. More on this problem below.





Other interesting sources

  • University of Massachusetts Dartmouth
    The Fortune 500 and Social Media: A Longitudinal Study of Blogging and Twitter Usage by America's Largest Companies (2010)
  • Media Literacy Clearing House
    A regularly updated collection of statistics on media consumption (across all channels). Great for gathering quick 'sound-bites' for your presentation
  • ComScore DataMine
    Interesting, regularly updated stats on media consumption from Comscore. The topics of study range from cell phone use, to top domains in the US to social media channels. The site is essentially more like a blog than a full-on database. ComScore also provides paid data services, which I haven't had the chance to review yet.
  • - The Internet Statistics Compendium 
    Provides data on online media consumption of consumers and corporate spending on online marketing . The focus here is on the UK although the US and "international" are also included. 


Final note

The quantitative data on platforms such as Ad Planner, Alexa and Facebakers is based on IP addresses and user profiles rather than number of actual users. Although cookies and user data help to improve accuracy, some caution is advised when making decisions based on the above sources.

For example, let's say we want to introduce a product aimed at women between 15-25 in the UK and we want to know how to reach our target audience. Using Facebakers, we found out that Facebook has almost 28 million users in the UK, 34% of which are between 15 and 25 years of age. In the UK, 52% of all Facebook users are female. Assuming this also applies to our set age group, we can estimate that around 4.9 million of our target audience can be reached on Facebook.

According to Eurostat, 13.4% of the UK population of 62 million is between the ages of 15 and 25 and 51% of the population is female. This leaves a total of 4.2 million. Thus, according to this analysis, I can potentially reach 116% of my target audience. An impressive number, but not something I would bring to that important marketing presentation.

Obviously, the data from Facebakers includes too many profiles from users than either do not exist, have multiple profiles or incorrectly state they reside in the UK. This probably does not affect the relative data much (e.g. % of users in a certain age group) but obviously it skews the absolute data. Jeremiah Owyang notices a similar problem and the advice from his post on Social Network Stats serves as a fitting conclusion to this post:

"The key is to look at trend movements, don’t focus on the specific numbers but the changes to them over time. Put more weight on active unique users in the last 30 days vs overall registered, in fact, the actual active conversion rate will often range from 10-40% of actual users sticking around and using the social network, so don’t be fooled by puffed numbers."


Any other tools we should include? Suggest them for our directory, or leave a note in the comments!