By Manya Chylinski published April 20, 2011

How to Find Content Ideas in Demographic Data

You’ve probably used demographics or psychographics to identify and understand your customers and your market. But have you ever thought of using these data to create content?

This post shows you how to:

  • Limit the data you collect to extract the best ideas for content for your industry, product or service
  • Identify the best data for your market

Identify the market

There are a lot of ways to break down customers in your market, such as:

  • Ethnicity
  • Age
  • Generation
  • Gender
  • Education level
  • Geography
  • Income
  • Occupation
  • Leisure activities
  • Family circumstances

If some of these are new to you or you think they may not apply to your customers, think about your market a bit differently. Maybe you know the rough age groups of your primary customers, but don’t have a sense of how they spend their leisure time. Can you find that information?

A note about generations: the definitions are not written in stone. Depending on the source, the Millennial generation (aka Gen Y) may be defined as being born between 1979-1995, 1982-2004, or 1982 to present. So you should take discussions of generations with a grain of salt and look for more details about how a resource defines a generation.

Generate ideas

The trick with demographic data is limiting it to help you target a niche or identify trends.

Use the data, and the predictions that sometimes accompany discussions of the data, to think about what is going on in your market.

  • What do you think your current customers will want next?
  • What do you think they will or should do next based on this info?
  • How do you predict their needs will change based on what you see in the data?

Then create content based on answers to questions similar to the ones above.

Limit yourself

There are a lot of demographic data available from many different sources. Because of the methodology of gathering statistical data, it can be difficult to merge data from different sources to get a true picture. It may be a good idea to restrict your search to one or two resources if you know the data are compatible. With so much data available, it is also easy to get lost in your research.

To limit your search, consider the most important variables in your market. It is residential ownership? Age? Geography? Job title or function? Family status? Health status? Social roles?

Focus on one or two areas you think will have the most significant impact on your customers. That’s where you want to find your data and ideas for content.  For example, if understanding U.S. income trends will help you create content, consider census data and the Statistical Abstract. If understanding income statistics on an international level will help generate ideas, consider the OECD labor force statistics (more sources are detailed below).

Target a niche

Once you have selected your data source and understand your market across different variables, segment. All Gen X women are not the same. A stay-at-home 37-year-old mother of two living in the suburbs of Chicago will have different needs than a 37-year-old single woman surfer living in San Diego, who is different than a 37-year-old lesbian architect living with her partner in New York City. Which woman is your customer? What kind of content can you create to meet her needs? If all three women are, indeed, your customer, consider creating content unique to each group and their needs.

Identify trends

Demographic data and statistics are great for seeing past trends, but as a content marketer, it’s more important to use what you learn about the past to make predictions about where that market might move.

Take the Baby Boom generation, a huge cohort moving into retirement years. If you serve that market, think about what they will need and how your product or service can help fill that need. Do you have a story to tell about how your cell phone is easier for those with fading vision or hearing? Can you share thoughts on travel trends for older adults? Are Boomers moving predominantly to a particular area, and is there a story to tell about how that will that impact that locale or their lives?

Find the data

Here are several sources for finding U.S. demographic data:

  • U.S. Census Bureau has basic data about populations countrywide or in your region, and the 2010 Census has up-to-date data from the most recent census (not all information from the 2010 census is available yet).
  • Statistical Abstract is published by the U.S. Census Bureau, and it provides a summary of statistics that is slightly easier to use than raw census data.
  • Fedstats gathers statistics from many U.S. agencies and makes them publicly available.
  • Civic Life in America provides data on civic involvement and topics like political action, social connectedness and volunteerism.
  • The Bureau of Labor Statistics provides economic or labor related data.

In addition to any local government sources outside the U.S., here are several sources for finding international demographic data:

In addition to government resources, there are other organizations that collect data you may find useful. (Some non-government sources may require you to subscribe or pay for data.)

  • The Pew Research Center’s Social & Demographic Trends is a project of the Pew Research Center, a nonpartisan polling and research organization. They study behaviors and attitudes of Americans in many areas of their lives.
  • Nielsen provides research and global consumer data for their clients.
  • Advertising Age provides global news and information for marketers and media professionals, and often includes statistical data.

There is also industry-specific data available, usually from associations. If you don’t know where to start to find the right organization, you can try searching the Gateway at Associations at the Center for Association Leadership website. Or check out Gale’s Encyclopedia of Associations for U.S. associations and international associations.

How have you used demography or statistics to spur ideas for your content?

Author: Manya Chylinski

Manya Chylinski is a marketing consultant and writer helping B2B companies create compelling content and share thought leadership and success stories. Founder of Alley424 Communications, Manya has experience in a variety of industries including technology, higher education, financial services, government, and consulting.

Other posts by Manya Chylinski

  • David

    You know what I say about the Millenial Generation?  It really began sometime during the late 1970s, and here’s why:

    1.  An online chart proves that the “echo boom” period started in 1977, when 159,000 more babies were born than during ’76 (there are even other articles to confirm this chart).

    2.  Studies that included those born during the late 1970s have proven that even they are very progressive on social issues (such as same – sex marriage, green technologies, and opposition to war as the best means of settling differences) – maybe not as much as men and women born during the ’80s, but still, they support those causes by a clear majority (by the way, it was people born beginning in 1978 that voted 2 to 1 for Obama, as “better” online sources prove).

    3.  People who came into this world in 1978 were just under 18 when the internet went mainstream in ’95.

    • Manya

      David,
      Thank you for this information and insight. We talk about generations like they are set in stone, so it is intriguing to realize that there are no official start or end dates. No generation patient-zero, so to speak.
      Manya

  • Francis

    Thanks for the info.