What Social Media Sites Are Hot – Lies, Damned Lies, And Statistics

I’m going to take the Mark Twain acknowledgment – I did not come up with all of the above title, but if you can think of a better quote, I’d like to hear it;-)

A different catchy title brought me to a recent post that suggested that a huge number of companies – 83% – are using Facebook, and I just didn’t buy it.

I had to check further, and my suspicions were quickly confirmed as telltale traces of distortion caught my notice.

Sure, the sites will get me to point to their articles, but you might enjoy following along as I tackle the subject…

Facebook is king

That’s right – according to Mike Sachoff at Webpronews, “Facebook Most Widely Used Among Businesses, 83% of businesses have a Facebook profile“.

Wow – that’s an impressive headline isn’t it?  I just had to click over to read it.

And reading the article again after uncovering the details, I see that Mike has pulled in more of the “full” story in the article than I thought initially…

He includes “of those who turn to such channels for business information” and “Among those using social media for business purposes in their jobs”.

Maybe that’s what clued me in early on – what sort of a survey was this?

The study behind the article

Mike is quoting from Business.com’s 2009 Business Social Media Benchmarking Study. And after I started reading through it, I realized there was a whole lot of statistics going on…

They asked that others talk about the study and point to the original when they do so – and I really want you to be able to check things out for yourself, so I’ve included their name and link in this post.  There is interesting material in the study, but not necessarily the things they highlight…

Several thousand participants

The study includes several thousand individuals that participated, so they’ve got numbers going on their side to begin with.  (Versus the opposite – we asked two people, and they both liked it, so 100% of individuals like…)

But who are these participants – general business people?

Social marketers

You heard me – 100% of the people participating in the survey either use social media in the course of their day job, or work for a company that is conducting or planing to conduct a social media presence. (The study says so at the beginning and at the end)

But wait – there’s more.

The study information in the appendix area notes that they had 2242 complete responses, and 1943 partial responses.  Since they also say that “2948 qualified to participate in the study”, I can only hope that the 2242 complete response participants were the one we’re dealing with.

I just loved finding figure 8 – they let the reader know that over 1900 respondents work for companies involved in social media.  “The vast majority (92%) are directly involved in planning or managing these company social media initiatives and spend, on average, 18% of their time in a given week working on these initiatives.”

So – 92% of over 1900 is at least 1748, and that means that at least 78% of all of the people that responded to the survey were people whose job is to manage a social media effort!

Definitely not a general survey

So if you want to know what people in the social media business are doing, this is a great survey.

If you want to know what you as a company thinking about entering the social media world because it’s getting a lot of press should do, this doesn’t really talk about you…

Small companies with a product

The next eye opener came when I found some other statistics at the bottom…

60% of the responses came from companies with less than 10 employees.

77% of the responses came from companies that sell to consumers.

So – I’m not sure you can generalize those results.  To be fair – if you’re in a small company that sells to consumers, this is a great report.


I’m not a fan of the style of statistics used in the report. The first thing they do is say that 1197 companies manage a profile on one or more social media sites (and remember – more than 1748 of those responding have a job that includes planning or managing a social media presence), and then they talk about the percentage of those people that use each site.

So while 80% of them manage a Facebook company page, that is still only 43% of these small, B2C companies…

Changes the picture now doesn’t it?

To the average

And speaking of pictures, I’m also not a fan of their charts.  They use this comparison to the average index – which really means they divide everything by the index to get a number around 1.00 – because the average is in fact the index of 1…

Here’s how one chart looks when adjust the index to 100 and change the scale:

Figure 3 - use vs company size

Not very exciting, is it? (You can compare to the original in both the WebProNews site and the study itself…)

Back to the title

So – back to that original title – of the 2242 people that self selected themselves to take this poll and were then filtered down into people that had a specific role in social media or worked in a company that had a social media presence, some number of individuals used social media sites.  And of those individuals that used some form of social media for a consumer facing company, 83% had a facebook presence.

Make of it what you will…

Good for figuring out what some companies are doing

Data – I love data.

And this particular data does reveal interesting tidbits about what the people conducting the study think is important, and how that self-selecting, filtered, group of respondents thinks…

But as you’ve seen with both poll results articles here – there’s always an interesting way to look at things;-)

To your continued success,

Steven Tylock


  1. Once again we have people who are posting self-serving statics and calling it research.

    Let call things what they are. A great way to get media attention.

    Look at all of the attention you gave the study. Even if it was bad press it was press and that is what they wanted.

  2. Mel,

    I cannot stop someone else from standing on the corner and shouting nonsense. One, they have a right to do so, and two, there are just too many of them to take all of my valuable time;-)

    I can educate everyone else – and show them how to evaluate publications and promotional material to see that it is nonsense.

    And I accept your point.

    I’m in the middle of myth-busting and that’s another area I have to call attention to – otherwise people will think that connecting indiscriminately has some sort of benefit, even if it looks a bit scary…


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