Marketers take note: N.H. users overwhelmingly embrace Facebook

New Hampshire businesses without a Facebook presence may be missing out on a valuable audience


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New Hampshire businesses without a Facebook presence may be missing out on a valuable audience, because -- according to a new report -- about two-thirds of age-eligible New Hampshire residents have an account on the social network.

There are just shy of 700,000 Facebook users in New Hampshire, which works out to about half of the state’s 1.32 million residents. But when children under 12 are factored out of the equation -- because they aren’t technically eligible to start a Facebook account -- that means that about two-thirds of the state’s age-eligible population is using the world’s largest social network.

“The growth has been tremendous. It has doubled in the three years we’ve been looking at it,” said Allen Voivod, who with his wife, Lani Voivod, owns Gilford-based Ephiphanies Inc., a social media consulting company that produced the report. Most of the figures in the report came directly from Facebook itself.

The report, available as a free download on the Epiphanies Facebook page, breaks down New Hampshire’s Facebook users by age, gender, location, and even their favorite activities and interests.

More women are using Facebook in New Hampshire than men; roughly 385,000 Granite State women are on the publicly held social network, compared to 307,000 men. That was also the case in New Hampshire’s top 20 cities and towns in the state for Facebook usage, each of which counted more female users than male users.

With just over 91,000 users, Manchester has the highest number of Facebook users of any town or city in the state, while Nashua and Concord came second and third, with about 47,000 and 36,000 users respectively. The towns with the most Facebook users were Derry (19,760), Merrimack (13,340) and Hudson (11,400).

Among their favorite activities? As it turns out, New Hampshire residents enjoy dancing, outdoor fitness, online gaming and gardening, while their interests are somewhat more vague: movies and TV, music, sports, news and politics. Facebook’s information all comes from what its users self-report, which Voivod reasoned likely makes it accurate and honest, “because people are on Facebook to connect with other people.”

Men aged 18 to 24 make up the biggest age demographic for male users in the state, with about 72,700 who fall into that age demographic. But for women, the 55-plus demographic is the state’s largest, with some 75,820 women over the age of 55 using the social network in the state.

Highly tailored

Because Facebook collects so much data on its users’ interests and activities, “what it really is is the world’s largest marketing database,” said Voivod.

Or, as the report put it, “if you can think it, you can target it.” Facebook’s paid advertisements can be displayed to people with broad interests, or can be highly tailored to appear on the screens of people who fall into very specific demographics.

“You can send an advertisement to anyone who is turning 21 years old today, who lives in Manchester, who is interested in NASCAR, and who has an iPhone as opposed to a Droid,” said Voivod.

It depends on the situation, but he generally advises companies to pay for Facebook advertising under certain circumstances -- to build up a targeted audience, for example, or to promote a significant milestone.

One New Hampshire company that has taken advantage of Facebook’s highly tailored ads is the Common Man Family of Restaurants, which has five separate Facebook pages for its various properties. (Of their ‘likers,’ about 69 percent are female and 29 percent are male, and most fall into the 35-to-44 age range.)

When trying to find seasonal employees to work at one of its lakeside resorts in the summer, the company bought a Facebook help-wanted ad that targeted people in Florida who enjoyed warm climates and people in Colorado, Wyoming, Vermont and Maine who worked winters at ski resorts.

“We ended up with 150 click-throughs in a week. To me, that’s traceable advertising,” said Erica Murphy, director of communications for the Common Man. And, more importantly, some of those clicks actually turned into job applications, she said.

Another important statistic in the report is that about half of all Facebook users access it from a mobile device, and that about 15 percent access it exclusively from their mobile devices. For businesses, that speaks to the importance of developing a strong mobile presence, said Voivod.

“That should also be a wake-up call for businesses who are already probably starting to hear how important mobile is.”

As for the sort of posts that are good to make on a Facebook page, Voivod advises businesses to keep them short and conversational. Asking questions is good for engagement, and keeping posts at 120 characters or shorter is best, especially for mobile users, he said. Sharing visual content, like photos and videos, is also important.

For Murphy, adopting a conversational, engaging tone means not always posting about restaurant specials or deals, but about things like impending storms.

Murphy did see a drop-off in the number of ‘likers’ who were seeing Common Man posts when Facebook changed its algorithm last year. But that change propelled her to think even more carefully about the content she did post, she said.

“I think that’s what made me even more conscious about the posts I made to engage people,” she said. “The more people click on it and reply to it, the more people see it, so focusing on your content to make sure it’s going to engage people (is important).”

One trepidation that businesses often have when thinking about joining Facebook is the chance they’ll receive negative feedback. But Murphy sees negative feedback on their Facebook pages as “the perfect way to show people who follow you how you respond to that,” and makes a point of responding promptly to any negative feedback they receive. They also don’t delete any negative posts, unless they’re slanderous or profane.

“I think people shouldn’t be afraid that their Facebook wall will be a sounding board for bad comments,” she said. “Really, the percentage is really slim, and if you’re running your business the way you should be running your business, then it won’t be occurring much.”

Leslie Sturgeon, the founder of women’s networking group Women Inspiring Women, was reluctant about using Facebook before she started her page in October 2008.

“I just thought it would be a waste of my time and it would be very time-consuming,” she said.

But now she finds it an effective tool for keeping in touch with her membership, promoting events and recruiting new members. She does almost all her paid advertisements on Facebook, and has had success with it but has noticed her ads having less impact over time.

For instance, there was one time when she paid about $100 for an ad that delivered 600 visits to her website and some 400,000 impressions. “It was an astronomically high number.”

But “now it’s not as effective,” she said. She recently tried to run an ad for a pajama party her group is hosting, but it didn’t find nearly as many eyeballs, she said.

“I don’t know what the problem is … now they tell you how many saw (your post) and the number is dwindling, because I think they want you to do the ads, but then the ads aren’t as effective.”

Still, she plans to continue advertising on the social network, and experimenting with different demographics and messages to determine what’s most effective. But primarily, what’s best about the network for her is the way it allows her to spend virtual face-time with her members, which is free.

While there are new platforms being developed all the time that could one day unseat Facebook from its perch atop the social media world, “certainly for a good chunk of the near future, it’s absolutely not going away,” said Voivod. “It’s only becoming more and more intertwined in people’s lives.”

He said Epiphanies is hosting the Facebook Business Accelerator, a six-part video course for business owners and organizations. It will cover such topics as optimizing content for news feed visibility, enhancing your online presence with third-party applications and how to analyze performance using Facebook insights others.

The online video series kicks off May 7, and the segments are recorded so they may be watched at any time. For more information, visit AhaFB.com.


 

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