We, the internet generation (if you are reading this you are almost certainly online) sometimes forget that many people do not use the internet. This week I was surprised to read this report, which states 27% of the UK population still do not use the internet. Note that this measure is different to (and I think more useful than) measurements of internet connections or PCs. We ignore all these people at our peril. A poll predicting the outcome of the 1936 US presidential election got the result spectacularly wrong by polling telephone owners. This was in an age when telephones were for the rich, or at least not for the poor. FDR romped home and the pollsters were left red-faced.
When we dive deeper into the internet penetration statistics, we see that many of those that use the internet stay away from our favourite communications media. Perhaps about half of the Irish population use Facebook, though finding the proportion that uses it regularly is more difficult. How much do non-users of the internet spend? Less than internet users, almost certainly – but still, they are an increasingly neglected market segment. How big is that segment in your country?
The mobile phone ownership stats from the ITU paint a compelling picture. Most countries in the world have over 100% mobile phone penetration. While there are still people who do not use a mobile phone, they are far fewer than for nearly any other medium. Many more people cannot read or write, for example. By focussing our marketing on internet users, and in particular on the users of online social networks, we miss out on a large and increasingly under-served segment of the population. When analysing networks to find influencers (and the influenced) to target campaigns, it is far better to work with mobile phone data than any other publicly available dataset.