This post updates the data from a previous post from September 16, 2010
In developing a social media strategy identifying who your audience is and where you can find them is critical. Given that there are currently more than 695 million Facebook accounts, and 151.4 million of them are in the United States, it is likely that your targeted audience is logging in on a daily basis. If you are a political candidate, elected official, or an advocacy group trying to influence public policy, a considerable portion of your audience resides on Facebook.
According to the US Census Bureau, in 2008, there were 225.5 million people over the age of 18 living in the United States, of which, 206.1 million (91.4%) were US citizens eligible to vote. During the 2008 election cycle, there were 146.3 million (71% of eligible voters) registered to vote, and 131.1 million (63.6% of eligible voters) who voted in the November election.
Though applying these percentages to Facebook will not provide accurate results, they can provide a sense of the size of the voting population present on the social networking site. According to Check Facebook, there are 135.6 million accounts registered to individuals over the age of 18. If 91.4% of them were citizens, we would have roughly 123.9 million eligible voters on Facebook. If 71% of that number were registered, there would be 88.0 million registered voters on Facebook, and therefore 78.9 million (63.6% of eligible voters) who might turn out in next year’s presidential election. Since we know that Facebook users tend to be younger, the numbers above are probably slightly higher, but I think the numbers demonstrate that there is a large audience of potential and likely voters on Facebook.
The most successful politician on Facebook is President Barack Obama, with 21,846,135 people who “like” his page. That number represents 3.1% of all Facebook accounts. Though it is highly unlikely that 100% of his Facebook followers are US citizens who are over the age of 18 and registered to vote, if we assumed for the moment that they were, he could have as many of 16.7% of likely voters in the United States in his audience. Certainly when President Obama speaks, Facebook listens. Though his campaign expended considerable resources to establish this sizable presence, today his only cost to engage with this audience is the time it takes to update his status. Though the campaign should know what the average cost was per follower, the ROI on that investment every time he engages is substantial.
Another politician who has built a significant Facebook presence is former Alaska Governor Sarah Palin with 3,167,304 people who “like” her page. If we make the same assumptions as we did for President Obama, she could have as many 2.4% of likely voters in the United States in her audience.
Regardless of your personal or political feelings of either of these two politicians on the national stage, their social networking ability (and that of their advisors and staff) has created significant audiences that have not even come close to reaching their potential. When you compare the cost of reaching these populations with a single direct mail piece ten years ago, and multiplied that by the number of status updates posted weekly, the ROI for the campaigns is stunning.
Popularity: 5% [?]