New research released today by Edison Research and Arbitron tracking three years of data and surveys related to Twitter use further solidifies the notion that the social media world is far different from reality. “Twitter Usage In America: 2010” shows that while 87 percent of Americans are aware of the microblogging site, only seven percent actually use it. For comparison’s sake, Facebook’s awareness rate is at 88 percent. Usage? 41 percent.

The research, far more reliable than most API scrapes you’ve read about recently, echoes Citibank’s report last week that asserts the vast majority of small business owners don’t even use social media. The simple fact of the matter is social media evangelists, enthusiasts and addicts make up a small portion of the population and, though trendy and early-adopter-ish, have a long way to go before their advice holds water with the real world.

Edison ResearchThat’s not to say that social media isn’t important or a trend worth incorporating into marketing. Just that we should balance our enthusiasm for the new and cool with a dose of reality. Most people don’t get this world and need more education than marketing advice.

I’m working on it.

The Edison/Arbitron report, unveiled in a webinar today by author Tom Webster, Vice-President for Strategy and Marketing for Edison, pulls data from a nationally representative survey of almost 2,000 Americans age 12 and over that was conducted via telephone interviews in February of this year. The data was laid over similar studies from 2008 and 2009, giving us probably the most comprehensive and statistically accurate representation of Twitter-related use statistics to date.

The report contains a bevy of updated stats and new insights into both Twitter and general social media usage. I’ve downloaded it for use in talking to clients and conference audiences moving forward. You should, too.

The report can be found on the Edison Research website.

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About Jason Falls

Jason Falls

Jason Falls is a leading thinker, speaker and strategist in the world of digital marketing and is co-author of two books, No Bullshit Social Media: The All-Business, No-Hype Guide To Social Media Marketing and The Rebel's Guide To Email Marketing. By day, he leads digital strategy for Elasticity, one of the world's most innovative digital marketing and public relations firms. Follow him on Twitter (@JasonFalls).

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Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://occamsrazr.com Ike Pigott

    Jason, how much of the lack of small business adoption (in your opinion) is because of lack of understanding? How much is lack of time to implement? And how close are some of these businesses are close to tipping over, just needing that slap-in-the-face from a competitor who is suddenly succeeding with it?

    • JenZingsheim

      First, great post Jason. I've been saying this for a while (that social media participants do not translate directly into “everybody”) and people look at me like I'm a heretic for saying so.

      Ike, you didn't ask me but I'll relay that the handful of interactions I've had with small business owners points to a combination of factors–some find it interesting and understand how social media can help them but see it as a huge time commitment (it is) and that they don't have to spare. Others seem to get 'stuck' on trying to learn everything, rather than focusing on the tool that might help them most. These are the ones who show up for social media events–I'm sure there are many others that fall into the “it's a waste of time” category or the “I'll worry about it when I'm mentioned” category.

  • http://humanvoice.wordpress.com tomob

    @Ike one more dimension to add – one reason I am on here is because the industry I'm in and ppl I sell to are on there. That isn't true for everyone. Including many small biz. However, if a competitor slaps them in the face, they will get into action.

    @tomob

  • http://www.socialjeff.com Jeff Vreeland

    Interesting results for sure Jason. Seeing the “Twitter trails Facebook significantly in usage: 7% of Americans (17 million persons) actively use Twitter, while 41% maintain a profile page on Facebook” speaks to the fact (in my opinion at least) that Facebook has a ease of understanding appeal that Twitter continues to be faced with.

    • http://occamsrazr.com Ike Pigott

      Jeff, I was actually thinking something very similar.

      When you get to Facebook, it's pretty obvious what you can and can't do. Pictures go here, I type in this box, and I am connected to my friends so I see what they are writing about already and it sets an expectation.

      When you join Twitter, you are all alone. And with nobody to shepherd you through the expectations and possibilities, it can be pretty damned tempting to quit.

      • http://www.socialjeff.com Jeff Vreeland

        Exactly. The fact that my Mom and Dad were able to sign in and pick up quickly how to use facebook speaks to their focus on user experience.

        Twitter while simple in terms of the functionality has to overcome the usability.

        To twitters credit I think they are seeing (as the report mentions) that this is going to be done from a 3rd party platform.

  • JenZingsheim

    First, great post Jason. I've been saying this for a while (that social media participants do not translate directly into “everybody”) and people look at me like I'm a heretic for saying so.

    Ike, you didn't ask me but I'll relay that the handful of interactions I've had with small business owners points to a combination of factors–some find it interesting and understand how social media can help them but see it as a huge time commitment (it is) and that they don't have to spare. Others seem to get 'stuck' on trying to learn everything, rather than focusing on the tool that might help them most. These are the ones who show up for social media events–I'm sure there are many others that fall into the “it's a waste of time” category or the “I'll worry about it when I'm mentioned” category.

  • http://twitter.com/dj_justjay Jason Arican

    There are a lot of people in the US. I should look at the report, because I'm curious if it goes into detail about how this percentage changes with education and affluence.

    Obviously it will go up, but by how much?

    Regardless, the distinction between people who have heard of it vs. use it is an important one.

  • JenZingsheim

    …also, these results kind of make me think about this ad: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FOcujXpbkhg&feat

  • http://twitter.com/webby2001 Tom Webster

    Thanks for this, Jason, and for continuing to provide a balanced point of view about social media. I think Twitter has a genuine place at the table for marketers and brand managers–you just need to know how to calibrate your expectations and how you weight the data you glean from Twitter, and you are definitely at the forefront on that regard.

    Thanks again!

  • http://twitter.com/webby2001 Tom Webster

    Thanks for this, Jason, and for continuing to provide a balanced point of view about social media. I think Twitter has a genuine place at the table for marketers and brand managers–you just need to know how to calibrate your expectations and how you weight the data you glean from Twitter, and you are definitely at the forefront on that regard.

    Thanks again!

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