(This post originally appeared on The Guardian)
Thinking of expanding your small business’s presence on social media? It’s important to know your demographics. If you’re targeting Twitter as your platform, then know this: those demographics are definitely going to be left of center.
That’s the conclusion from a study released recently by the Knight Foundation. The foundation, in order to, as they say, “better understand the landscape of political news and engagement on Twitter”, funded a two-part project that looked at more than 86m tweets for clues about the Twitter audience and the role that journalists play.
Their conclusion: Twitter is left-leaning. How much so? According to the study’s authors, their scoring analysis found that over half (57%) of the users they looked at were what they defined as “center-left” and another 10% were classified as “extreme left”. Only 8% of users were considered to be “center-right” with the remainder being at the extreme right.
Not only is Twitter skewed heavily to the left, but that population is also the loudest. The study’s data revealed that the center and extreme left were the most vocal and engaged segments, particularly when it came to current political news. That means that their views tended to be overrepresented. “Most Twitter users, even those with a relatively diverse following, are likely seeing a left-skewed version of politics,” the authors concluded.
Why is this important data for business owners?
It’s because Twitter is mostly made up of a specific type of demographic. “It is important to recognize that Twitter is a distorted mirror of Americans’ political views,” says the study’s authors. “Moderate conservative voices who might share information diets and views closer to their center-left counterparts are largely absent on Twitter. This may shed at least some light as to why political discussions on the platform often feel like a thorny environment for finding common ground.”
This is the Twitter community. Is that good or bad for your company? That depends.
As small business owners, we have lots of options – some believe almost too many options – for spending our limited marketing money. Choosing the right platform can make the difference between growth or failure. Social media outlets like Twitter and Facebook have grown significantly in popularity over the past decade and many social media pundits say our businesses need a presence there or risk losing out. But the smartest business owners I know choose where they spend their time and money wisely. They figure out where their customers (and prospective customers) are and invest in those areas.
Are your customers – or prospective customers – likely to be on Twitter? If your company sells products or provides services that would appeal more to a left-leaning or progressive audience, then good for you: Twitter could be a great place. If you’re left-leaning, active politically and want a forum to express your views without fearing that some of your customers may take offense, then Twitter might be a less risky outlet.
But just be careful. It’s an election year. Choosing the wrong audience to sell your products or express your political views to – particularly in these times – could be harmful to your business. On Twitter, that audience is left of center. For your business, that may be a good thing. Or maybe not.