There’s not enough good research out there today. This fact is sad but true. It’s especially true in the social media space, where junk research and sensational headlines abound (example — earlier this week The Wall Street Journal forecasted Facebook’s diminishing importance). However, those hungry for some good data just got a fresh batch served up. 

Edison Research and Arbitron just released the 20th study in their Social Habits series. You can download an overview of the findings presented at Blogworld by the whip smart Tom Webster here. I’ve never been a huge fan of blog posts that simply reshare or restate findings from the latest, greatest study. I’m making an exception here because, as previously noted, good research in this realm can be hard to come by. Second, this blog sits at the intersection of branding and social media marketing and several of these insights are particularly meaningful for brand builders working in social media today.

Here are the 8 Social Habits brands need to know about:

1. Deliver This Report to the Laggards

The Social Habits data is a perfect gift for those hard-to-shop-for individuals in your organization who don’t think social media marketing is a good fit for your business. The new data now shows that half of Americans have a profile on a social network. Wouldn’t you say that ‘half of Americans’ could potentially include just a few of your customers? Furthermore, the report goes on to point out that over the past two years brand-following has doubled. This point is short and sweet: are you really still saying that your customers aren’t “on social media” or that you “can’t imagine them following our brand”? Really??

2. It’s Called ‘Social Habit’ for a Reason

… Because 58 million Americans have it! That’s right. The big social habit is the fact that 22% of our population is checking their social networking sites “several times a day.” The Brand Driven Insight? Sorry but most Americans aren’t visiting your site everyday. As this social frequency increases, building outposts on these platforms people are visiting more often makes a lot of sense.

3. No Need for Facebook Shame

Often, when talking to smaller marketers with limited staff and budget, I notice them hanging their heads and saying, “We really don’t have time for Twitter or Pinterest. We are lucky to get Facebook right.” That’s OK. The Social Habit report shows that at a whopping 54% Facebook is the dominant social network. If you can only start a social outpost in one place, Facebook is a pretty safe bet. The data also shows Facebook as the dominant social network where users follow brands.

4. Go Mobile or Go Home

With 54% of Facebook users accessing the site via their phone, brand builders need to take a cold, hard look at where links on social sites are going from a mobile user’s perspective. Whether it’s an intuitive mobile site or responsive design, if your content drops the baton you may not make it into your community’s growing social habits.

5. Twitter Is Blowing Up

Several sets of numbers in the report focus on one thing — Twitter use is expanding big time. More users, more new users, more people using the service even more. And that other fun stat I pointed out from Edison a couple weeks ago about why Twitter’s more important than any simple user count or use stat. Twitter is becoming an increasingly critical brand touch point. The question to reluctant brand builders? Shouldn’t you take the time to get to know this platform?

6. Don’t Check In Just Yet

Where you may not want to spend your limited time is on check-in services like Foursquare. While many platform improvements hold continued promise for brands, the study shows that only 26% of Americans were familiar with the concept of “checking in.” Frequency of check-ins is also on the decline.

7. Social Is the Brand Equalizer

Social media hippy talk grosses me out a lot. However, the one idea that I’ve always gotten behind is that social media has lowered barriers that prevent reach for brands of all shapes and sizes. The potential is there for everyone — not just Coke, Best Buy, and Walmart. That’s why the biggest Brand Driven Insight in the Social Habit report is one of the last ones that simply points out that there’s no one brand that dominates social media. You really can’t say the same for other channels where you pay to play. Coke or Chevy can own the Super Bowl but for right now no one is dominating Facebook or Twitter.

8. What Earns the Follow?

The most commonly cited reasons are: 1. sales/discounts (no surprise), 2. don’t know (room to improve here), 3. like the product (we hope so), and 4. content (more potential). There’s something for everyone here! That sales VP looking to impact the bottom line might like seeing this. While you as a savvy marketer might skip the middle two and focus on #4 — the fact that fans are hungry for content and will connect with your brand on social networks to get it.

Conclusion & How to Get More Data

These are the insights I distilled to be of paramount concern to brand builders. What else is in the report? Killer graphs, user demographics, and ton of other useful facts on how Americans use of social media is growing and evolving. Again, you can learn more about The Social Habit from Edison here.

If you also like thoughtful musings on brands and good research you should check out Tom Webster’s blogs BrandSavant and DataSnob too.

What Social Habits surprise you the most? How is your brand adapting?