This post is a follow-up to my recent post, “Ethics of Social Media Research and Marketing for Alcoholic Beverage Companies.”

In that post, we reported that alcoholic beverage companies who belong to the industry’s primary trade association adhere to a Code of Responsible Practices for advertising and marketing. The purpose of the code is to ensure association members advertise and market beverage alcohol products only to adults of legal purchase age, which is 21. The code says: “Beverage alcohol advertising and marketing should be placed in broadcast, cable, radio, print, and internet/digital communications only where at least 70 percent of the audience is reasonably expected to be above the legal purchase age (determined by using reliable, up-to-date audience composition data).”

NetBase would like to be able to assure companies that the social media data acquired using our ConsumerBase tool comes from an audience that is at least 70 percent over-21 adults. To find out if we could do that, we researched the demographics of the social media universe. Our conclusion is that it’s not possible to be completely sure, but it does appear that the audience meets the 70 percent threshold.

Researching Age Statistics for 19 Social Network Sites

We looked at many reports on the demographics of the Internet. Unfortunately for our purposes, the youngest age segment included is typically 18-24 year olds; there were none that broke out an under-21 segment. The best we found was this February 2010 report from Pingdom, which set out to answer these questions:

“How old is the average Twitter or Facebook user? What about all the other social network sites, like MySpace, LinkedIn, and so on? How is age distributed across the millions and millions of social network users out there?”

To find out, they pulled together age statistics for 19 different social network sites, and crunched the numbers. Here’s the full list of sites in their study:

Facebook, LinkedIn, MySpace, Twitter, Slashdot, Reddit, Digg, Delicious, StumbleUpon, FriendFeed, Last.fm, Friendster, LiveJournal, Hi5, Tagged, Ning, Xanga, Classmates.com, Bebo

To get consistent age data for the various sites, they used site demographics information for the United States gathered from Google’s Ad Planner service and then did some additional calculations to get all the data they needed.

Social Audience Meets the 70 Percent Standard

Note that there is no “Under-21” category, so it’s not possible to be certain what that percentage is. However, even if everyone in the 18-24 category were under 21, the total percentage of under-21 users would be 24% (15+9), making the percentage of users 21 and older 76%—above the alcoholic beverage industry’s self-imposed minimum threshold of 70%.

No one can guarantee that the audience alcoholic beverage companies may analyze with a tool like ConsumerBase is more than 70 percent adults 21 or over, but it looks like the probability of that is high.

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