by Tanya Andrien
The American Petroleum Institute (API) recently launched a new nationwide campaign, “Vote 4 Energy,” to encourage voters to make energy a more important election issue (see http://vote4energy.org). The campaign does not support specific candidates, but focuses on issues around securing affordable and reliable energy sources, and creating jobs through domestic resource development. API’s president, Jack Gerard, noted that the communications effort for the campaign will encompass social media to extend beyond people it has already reached.
While I am a proponent of the campaign and the need to highlight energy as an important election issue, I was curious about the use of social media as a tool to reach new audiences. Who will API most likely reach via social media?
The University of Texas at Austin Energy Poll asked consumers multiple questions about whether they used social media sites (Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, LinkedIn) for news and information about energy issues. The detailed responses from more than 3,400 consumers indicate that approximately 29 percent currently use social media for news and information about energy.
* Gender: Men (33%) are more likely than women (26%) to use social media for energy.
* Age: Consumers aged 18 to 24 years are most likely to use social media for energy information, and usage figures generally declined as the respondents increase in age.
* Income (greater or less than $50K): Did not have an impact on usage.
* Education (high school, some college, university or higher): Respondents with more than a high school education were more likely to use social media for energy information than those with a high school degree or less, but there was not a significant difference between those who held university degrees (or higher) and those who only had some college experience.
* Political Affiliation: Democrats (35%) are more likely than Independents (27%) and Republicans (25%) to use social media for energy information.
Going beyond basic demographics, consumers who self-reported as knowledgeable about energy production and usage were much more likely to already use social media for information about energy (36%) than those who reported themselves as unknowledgeable about energy (22%). Finally, consumers who described themselves as active/passive environmentalists (43%/31%) were more likely to use social media than non-environmentalists (26%).
Based on my review of the data, API’s use of social media will most likely reach young educated males, many of whom already consider themselves knowledgeable about energy and concerned about the environment. However, because young people 18-24 are the age group least likely to vote, API also may want to include the importance of voting as part of its social media campaign messages for maximum effectiveness.
Tanya Andrien is an Associate Director with the Energy Management and Innovation Center at McCombs School of Business. Prior to this position, Ms. Andrien spent more than a decade providing business and litigation consulting services to corporations, law firms and government agencies.
 Social media (or new media) includes Facebook, YouTube, Twitter, LinkedIn, blogs, podcasts, RSS feeds and news apps.