Rural Use of Social Media

rural_soc_mediaThe Daily Yonder has been writing a lot (well some) on rural use of social media lately. Last week there was a great story of a farmer in Oregon and her use of Twitter. She started a Twitter account for the farm to connect with other farmers, which took off when she found herself the proud owner of piglets and needed some help.

Her story reminded me of Jennifer Peterson in Pine City. She was the blogger without broadband that I interviewed last year. It’s great to see the increase in stories about rural social media use.

A couple of weeks ago I read an article (The Party Line is Crackling) and a study on use of social media in rural America. The report looked at 3,000 MySpace accounts (at the time MySpace was more popular than Facebook) of rural and urban users.

They found that rural users had fewer MySpace friends, and the friends that they did have tended to reside closer to their home, that rural women are more likely to use social media than men, and they are more apt to set their profiles to “private” than their urban counterparts. The article said, “In short, rural users relied on social media primarily to bond with existing close friends rather than building friendship bridges to users in other areas of the country.”

I wanted to see how rural use would stack up more locally so I invited members of the Minnesota Voices Online (an email list of social media types, which includes a number of rural folks) to take a survey that looked at the same characteristics. (Your welcome to take the survey now too if I get a lot of new data I’ll do an update.)

I’ll post the raw data below. I found similar results, which also rang true with the comments made in the one open ended question I asked. What I thought was interesting was the difference in Twitter versus Facebook, which also came up in the open ended question. More rural folks use Facebook – and they tended to have more friends living within 10 miles of their home. Fewer rural folks used Twitter.

I was only dealing with about 25 respondents. It appears as if there were a handful of super users who probably skewed the results – except that at least one was in a rural area and one in an urban. And in real life there are super users and there are the rest of us. Like the original study, I was looking mostly at current users too – so this doesn’t include the hordes of people who aren’t using social media yet. Although I hitnk that group is shrinking. I happened to talk to a group of about 20 Metro-based women realtors this week and a quick show of hands indicated that about 90 percent were on Facebook.

It’s interesting to see growth of social media. I think as more and more people become proficient social media users that more will want to post video clips and pictures – and more and more broadband will be required. I hope that the supply will be there to meet the demand.

Data from survey:
Here’s what I found in a group that turned out to be 74 percent rural:
Average age: 37-48
52% of respondents were female
On MySpace: 27%

Number of Friends on MySpace
0-26: 60 %
101-200: 20%
301-400: 20%

All Friends lived within 10 miles of respondent

Percent of Friends who also know offline:
0-25: 60%
26-50: 40%

On Facebook: 82%

Number of friends on Facebook
0-25: 11%
26-50: 22%
51-100: 28%
101-200: 28%
401-500: 6%
500+: 6%

Percent of Friends living within 10 miles of respondent
0-25: 78%
26-50: 17%
51-75: 6%

Percent of Friends who also know offline:
0-25: 6%
26-50: 28%
51-75: 11%
76-100: 56%

On Twitter: 65%

Number of followers on Twitter
0-25: 50%
51-100: 6%
101-200: 25%
201-300: 6%
301-400: 6%
500+: 6%

Percent of Follower living within 10 miles of respondent
0-25: 78%
26-50: 17%
51-75: 6%

Percent of Friends who also know offline:
0-25: 75%
26-50: 12%
51-75: 6%
76-100: 6%

I also asked what people found most valuable about social media. Keeping in contact with families and friends far away was a top reason. Getting to know people locally was another. Some use it only to connect around specific events or issues, one is disable and it is a connection to the outside world. People like the brevity and search aspects of Twitter; people like the growing ubiquity of Facebook.

Here’s what I find when I exclude the urban and suburban responses:

Average age: 37-48 (35%) and 49-60 (35%)
65% of respondents were female
On MySpace: 25%

Number of Friends on MySpace
0-26: 50 %
101-200: 25%
301-400: 25%

All Friends lived within 10 miles of respondent

Percent of Friends who also know offline:
0-25: 50%
26-50: 50%

On Facebook: 89%

Number of friends on Facebook
0-25: 14%
26-50: 29%
51-100: 36%
101-200: 14%
401-500: 0
500+: 7%

Percent of Friends living within 10 miles of respondent
0-25: 86%
26-50: 14%
51-75: 0

Percent of Friends who also know offline:
0-25: 7%
26-50: 36%
51-75: 0
76-100: 57%

On Twitter: 59%

Number of followers on Twitter
0-25: 55%
51-100: 9%
101-200: 18%
201-300: 9%
301-400: 0
500+: 9%

Percent of Follower living within 10 miles of respondent
0-25: 100%
26-50: 0
51-75: 0

Percent of Friends who also know offline:
0-25: 81%
26-50: 0
51-75: 9%
76-100: 9%

This entry was posted in MN, New Media, Research, Rural by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (blandinonbroadband.org), hosts a radio show on MN music (mostlyminnesota.com), supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota (elimstrongtowershelters.org) and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

3 thoughts on “Rural Use of Social Media

  1. Pingback: Telling a story using social media: Webinar Notes « Blandin on Broadband

  2. I have done a small check too for Denmark, where more than 40% of the population have a facebook account. I found more superusers in rural than in urban. Average friends in urban settings 251 and in rural 470! But the dispersion is also higher in rural because of the superusers.

  3. Pingback: The Changing Face of Social Media » Brodeur Open Blog

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