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Social Networks Demographic Segmentation

comScore Media Metrix released an analysis of the users of leading social networking sites, revealing that significant age differences exist between the user bases of these sites. I believe that the results of this study could encourage marketers to target consumers based upon their lifestyle and interest personas, regardless of their age.

Visitors to MySpace.com and Friendster.com generally skew older, with people age 25 and older comprising 68 and 71 percent of their user bases, respectively. Meanwhile, Xanga.com has a younger user profile, with 20 percent of its users in the 12-17 age range, about twice as high as that age segment's representation within the total Internet audience.

Not surprisingly, Facebook.com, which began as a social networking site for college students, also draws a younger audience. More than one-third (34 percent) of visitors to Facebook.com are 18-24 years old, approximately three times the representation of that age segment in the general Internet population.

"While the top social networking sites are typically viewed as directly competing with one another, our analysis demonstrates that each site occupies a slightly different niche," commented Jack Flanagan, executive vice president of comScore Media Metrix. "MySpace.com has the broadest appeal across age ranges, Facebook.com has created a niche among the college crowd, Friendster.com attracts a higher percentage of adults, and Xanga.com is most popular among younger teens. There is a misconception that social networking is the exclusive domain of teenagers, but this analysis confirms that the appeal of social networking sites is far broader."

An analysis of visitors to MySpace.com shows that as the site has experienced dramatic visitor growth, it has become more popular among older Internet users. The most significant shift has occurred among teens 12-17, who accounted for 24.7 percent of the MySpace audience in August 2005, but today represent a much lower 11.9 percent of the site's total audience. Conversely, Internet users between the ages of 35-54 now account for 40.6 percent of the MySpace visitor base, an 8.2 percentage point increase during the past year.

"As social networking sites have become mainstream, the demographic composition of MySpace.com has changed considerably. Last year half of the site's visitors were at least 25 years old, while today more than two-thirds of MySpace visitors are age 25 or older," continued Mr. Flanagan. "It will be interesting to monitor the shifts in Facebook's demographic composition that will undoubtedly occur as a result of the company's recent decision to open its doors to users of all ages."

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