I'd like to have been a research scientist on that project! "Dr. Macbeth, I'm not sure whether to put this LOLcat tweet under "meaningless" or not. Is making people laugh helpful to humanity?" To be honest, a 90/10 ratio has to be an improvement over the current state of television programming -- a balloon hoax designed to land a role on a reality show? -- and it certainly sounds like a reasonable rule of thumb for the face-to-face conversations we have every day.
But it was the demographic comment that hit home for me. "Dominant demographic" is a carryover from traditional media, in which a commercial message had to be broadcast to the entirety of a channel's audience. If you were selling men's deodorant, what you cared about was that the bulk of Super Bowl viewers were in your target market. If your dragnet happened to pick up a few old ladies, it couldn't be helped.
But online advertising is not a homogeneous channel. Twitter is not a homogeneous channel. Google is not a homogeneous channel.Instead, what new media excels at is the ability to allow advertisers to specify their broadcasting frequency, combined with the ability to allow consumers to tune their ad radios with ever-increasing granularity.
Seeming non sequitur: have you ever noticed that Democrats hang out with Democrats? Or that crazy Georgia fans hang out with crazy Georgia fans? We are all mini two-way radios, transmitting and receiving information and adjusting our own frequency every day. Every day, we're efficiently focusing on what we want to do, see, and hear, and neatly discarding everything else. This tuning process is two-way, so as we adjust our own frequencies, other people find us more or less relevant.
Google has risen to the top of the search heap because its results tend to resonate at the same frequency as our intentions. That's great news for searchers and for advertisers, because when there's a frequency match, there's likely to be a sale. But the Google process is close enough to traditional advertising (I take out a classified, I get some buyers), that we haven't necessarily noticed that that's what's going on.
When it comes to social media, though, that's exactly what we need to understand. You're not marketing on Twitter; you're adjusting your frequency for the highly select subset of people who tune in to your message.
This is why, now more than ever, specificity is critical. The more focused your message, the stronger it resonates (think of a laser). The stronger it resonates, the more likely it is to find its own kind: those people who will appreciate what you have to say.
The question we need to be asking is not, "What's Twitter's primary demographic?" but "Is my demographic on there in sufficient numbers to be worthwhile?" On Twitter, I choose not to tune in to Ashton or the "what I had for breakfast" types -- that's just not the frequency at which I resonate. Instead, I've found lots of people who make the endeavour worthwhile.
Find your frequency. Then focus on it and make it more powerful. You'll discover like minds everywhere you turn.