Social Media Gains Foothold Inside the Beltway

March 13, 2012

nationaljournal-socialmedia-inside-beltway-march2012.jpgThe major social networks see relatively high usage rates among workers in Washington DC, according to results from a National Journal survey released in March 2012. Facebook is the most popular among Capitol Hill workers (84%), followed by LinkedIn (60%) and Twitter (49%). Within the executive branch, Facebook also leads, used by 63% of respondents, trailed by LinkedIn (52%) and Twitter (24%). In the private sector, though, LinkedIn is most popular, used by three-quarters of respondents, ahead of Facebook (64%) and Twitter (43%).

According to the National Journal report, federal executives, when given a choice of descriptors for Twitter, called it “pointless babble.” These respondents’ attitudes may not be as far away from users’ attitudes as one might think: according to research released in January 2012 by Carnegie Mellon University (CMU), which looked at data gleaned from December 2010 to January 2011, Twitter users rated only 36% of the tweets they received as worth reading, while they expressed ambivalence about 39%, and said 25% were not worth reading.

Blackberry Use on the Decline

nationaljournal-blackberry-use-dc-2009v2012-march2012.jpgMeanwhile, a traditional vestige of Blackberry dominance may be falling, as the prevalence of Blackberry devices among workers in Washington DC has dropped markedly from 2009. The proportion of staffers on Capital Hill using a Blackberry has fallen from 93% in 2009 to 77% this year, a 17% decline, while the decrease in usage is even more drastic among those in the executive branch and the private sector, falling 25% and 34%, respectively. Just 1% of those surveyed who work on Capitol Hill said they are planning to buy a Blackberry, and fewer than 1% in the private sector and executive branch plan to do so.

iPhone Takes Market Share

In fact, the iPhone now challenges the Blackberry for market share of DC private-sector workers (42% vs. 50%), having grown in adoption from just 15% in 2009. Similarly, the iPhone has become increasingly popular among Capital Hill staffers, with 41% reporting ownership this year, compared to just 13% in 2009. And while adoption is lowest among federal executives (27%), that amount is still triple the 9% who reported ownership in 2009.

Other Findings:

  • 89% of DC private sector professionals, 87% of Capital Hill staffers, and 74% of federal executives say they have viewed or are planning to view election-night coverage on TV or online.
  • Most DC staffers do not use Twitter or Facebook on others’ behalf. Of those who did, 14% on Capitol Hill said they used social media on behalf of their bosses, compared with 1% in the private sector and none in the executive branch. A slightly higher proportion said they used Twitter or Facebook on behalf of an organization or company. Although it is unclear if the National Journal survey respondents who use social media are doing so for work purposes or for personal reasons, according to a Financial Times and Doremus survey released in March, 58% of global senior executives use social networking sites for leisure, while only 28% do so for work.

About the Data: The National Journal survey was conducted in January 2012 and included 1,225 subjects: 273 Hill staffers, 673 private-sector public-affairs professionals, and 279 federal executives. The Doremus and Financial Times data is based on a global online survey of 628 senior executives.

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