A Statistically-Interesting Social Media Thanksgiving with Sarah Palin

Sarah Palin Pardoning TurkeyWhat a difference a year makes. Last year, our large Thanksgiving gathering was still divided and at odds over the then recent 2008 presidential election. With the exception of Sarah Palin, which I’ll address shortly, a new, shiny object showed up with the holiday turkey: social media. With three generations at the table ranging from ages twelve to eighty, I knew it was going to be an interesting discussion. For my statistically-oriented and pollster-pushing friends, here is a measurable tidbit: everyone in attendance had an email address – and that included “the elders.” For simplicity, let’s segment the gathering into the elders (60 +), the kids (20 -) and the mid-market (20-60).

As a marketing guy and a card-carrying member of the mid-market, I was at an interesting vantage point because I’ve used all of the social media vehicles. I had to explain the role of Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, blogs, Digg, etc. What intrigued me, though, were the divergent and interesting views on social media. Here are some take-aways:

  • The kids thought the other generations at the table were Luddites and couldn’t understand why we weren’t texting between bites of cranberry sauce and stuffing.
  • The mid-market and elders believe Facebook should be about connecting friends and not about communicating to your-sister’s-classmate’s-cousin-from-Fresno-CA’s-favorite-Starbucks-barista.
  • The kids had an average 582 friends vs. about 87 for the mid-market. From our sample, none of the elders had Facebook, but were very interested.
  • Only the mid-market, marketing guy and his wife (Mrs. Market Research) had a Twitter account. None of the kids “got” Twitter and thought it was weird. Go figure.
  • LinkedIn was deemed very intriguing by the mid-market and the elders, though the brand recognition was weak. The kids challenged the concept of LinkedIn when one already had a Facebook account. (Why do the non-kids segments feel this way? Because business colleagues generally don’t want to see one another in skimpy bathing suits and compromising situations.)
  • Social bookmarking was not well known across all three segments. When I explained the concept, everyone thought the idea was great, but didn’t like that fact that there were so many choices. The one-stop shopping rule returns.
  • Most at the table don’t understand long URLs and want to shorten them. I explained bit.ly to a few, but they didn’t necessarily like the new, cryptic URLs either.

After the social media discussions ended, Sarah Palin showed up again this year as a hot topic. As always, she remains a divisive subject, especially now that her new book is out. I tried to remain objective between the Maureen Dowd-esque and Sean-Hannity-esque banter (and flying drumsticks) at the table. In an effort to mediate the debate, I raised the subject of her use of Facebook and Twitter, which only empowered both sides at the table. I’ll try to remain neutral again next year, though I suspect my analysis of her use of social media may not fly again. I will be especially interested at the Thanksgiving 2010 to see how the market segmentation changes and which social media vehicles are in vogue.

Rob Ciampa


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