Research: Social & Digital

Rural Social & Digital Research

Over 60 million people live in Rural America

Who are they and why are they an important audience for social and digital media marketing?

heat map

Demographic Overview

Extreme Rural Rural Suburban Urban
Gender 50.2% Female, 49.8% Male 52.7% Female, 47.3% Male 52% Female, 48% Male 51.7% Female, 48.9% Male
Average Age 57 Years Old 50 Years Old 44 Years Old 46 Years Old
Average Income $49,000 Per Year $55,000 Per Year $63,000 Per Year $76,000 Per Year
Race 81.5% White
11.8% African American
6.0% Other
0.7% Asian
85.3% White
6.7% African American
6.0% Other
2.0% Asian
74.3% White
11.4% African American
8.9% Other
5.4% Asian
66.1% White
14.6% African American
10.8% Other
8.4% Asian
Ethnicity 92.8% Non-Hispanic
7.2% Hispanic
89.3% Non-Hispanic
10.7% Hispanic
84.7% Non-Hispanic
14.3% Hispanic
79.1% Non-Hispanic
20.9% Hispanic
Average Number of People in Household Eight of more One Six Seven
Source: Simmons Market Research


But that doesn’t mean they don’t act the same online

Importance of Online Rural Shoppers

  • Rural consumers are responsible for more than 10.8 billion internet-driven transactions annually, out of 69.9 billion - so this audience represents 15% of all internet-driven transactions.
  • Estimated value of rural online transactions is nearly $1.4 trillion.
  • 45% of rural residents go online weekly to make a purchase.
  • 58% of Americans in rural areas have shopped on marketplaces, 71% at large retailer sites, 39% on web stores or independent boutiques, and 40% at category-specific online stores.

Rural American’s access to the internet is growing every year.

Extreme Rural Rural Suburban Urban
Computer 83 103 101 104
Cell phone or tablet 80 91 103 107
TV 50 85 106 117
Source: Simmons Market Research. Simmons Market Research is based on National Average which is represented by 100

Internet Usage at Home

Most of Rural county Internet consumption comes from a computer, cell phone, or tablet device. Because of this, social and digital media marketing play a huge role in connecting to these rural consumers.

Rural vs. Urban Internet Usage Levels

Rural consumers index higher than their urban counterparts, spending more than 6 hours a day on the Internet. They are also a near-match on medium to very light internet usage to urban consumers.


What exactly are they doing online?

Social Media Influence for Rural Consumers

  • 58% of rural residents use social media networks, falling behind urban residents at 64%.
  • 51% of rural residents use social media.
  • 30% of online shoppers say they would be likely to make a purchase from a social media network like Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram, Twitter, or Snapchat.
  • 31% of shoppers said social media helped influence their buying decision.
  • 25% of Rural Americans are more likely to buy something after seeing an ad on social media.

Usage of Online Platforms by Age

Social media is not just for millennials. The average age of 49-51 for Rural county consumers are very active on social media platforms, such as Facebook & YouTube.

Facebook YouTube Pinterest Instagram Snapchat LinkedIn Twitter
Men 62% 75% 16% 30% 23% 25% 23%
Women 74% 72% 41% 39% 31% 25% 24%
Ages 18-29 81% 91% 34% 64% 68% 29% 40%
Ages 30-49 78% 85% 34% 40% 26% 33% 27%
Ages 50-64 65% 68% 26% 21% 10% 24% 19%
Ages 65+ 41% 40% 16% 10% 3% 9% 8%
Rural 58% 59% 28% 25% 18% 13% 17%
Source: Pew Research Center

Social Media Consumption

Rural county consumers stay relatively on par with urban county counties in terms of weekly social media consumption.

Extreme Rural Rural Suburban Urban
1-2 x per day 23.7% 25.4% 24.4% 23.9%
3+ x per day 47.9% 39.7% 46.4% 48.2%
4-6 x per week 12.3% 11.3% 11.4% 9.5%
1-3 x per week 8.6% 13.0% 9.9% 11.8%
Less than once a week 7.5% 10.6% 7.9% 6.6%
Source: Pew Research Center
Rural Urban
Product updates 28% 30%
Special promotions 29% 28%
Customer service 15% 9%
Brand news 12% 12%
Other 15% 21%
Source: Pew Rsearch Center

Brand Engagement

Rural residents utilize social media to not only stay up-to-date with their friends, but also to stay engaged with their favorites businesses.

Social Media Statements

Extreme Rural Rural Suburban Urban
I talk about things I see on social media in face-to-face conversations. 84 92 106 104
Social media is a way for me to tell people about companies & products that I like. 84 88 98 111
Sometimes I post ratings or reviews online for other consumers to read. 74 80 112 107
I like to follow my favorite brands or companies on social media. 79 65 103 116
I am more likely to purchase products I see advertised on social media. 83 83 99 112
I often click on links or items posted by others on social media . 106 90 101 100
I am more likely to purchase products I see used or recommended by friends on social media. 88 84 98 111
I trust product information that I get from social media more than other sources. 112 68 102 105
Source: Simmons Market Research. Simmons Market Research is based on National Average which is represented by 100


Let’s review how a good paid search program will help to reach rural consumers

Paid Search for Product Discovery

  • Rural shoppers are more inclined to go into a store for purchases, but they do their research online before going.
  • Ensuring your brand is easily accessible through social media and paid search is key for brand discovery with rural shoppers.

Utilization of Paid Search

  • Consumers are turning to websites as the first option to search for deals.
  • 53% of consumers then use coupon websites (RetailMeNot,, etc.) for their online expenditures.
  • 53% also use manufacturing and brand websites to obtain cheaper options instead of purchasing from large retailers.


Why is the affiliate channel key to influencing rural shoppers?

Impact of Affiliate Marketing on Consumers

  • 86% of the shoppers surveyed said coupons have influenced them to try a new product.
  • 84% of shoppers say coupons influence their store choices.
  • 77% decide which stores to shop based on where they can use paper coupons.
  • 75% of those surveyed print coupons from the internet and then take in-store to purchase.
  • 71% of Americans’ purchasing behaviors are influenced by their ability to find a coupon or discount online.
  • 67% decide which store to shop based on where they can use paperless discounts.
Extreme Rural Rural Suburban Urban 49 102 136 92
Groupon 33 40 123 127
Living Social 6 33 140 127
Source: Simmons Market Research. Simmons Market Research is based on National Average which is represented by 100

Popular Coupon Sites Visited

  • Extreme rural county consumers are less likely to use digital coupons because they still prefer traditional print options
  • Rural county consumers continue using print coupons, but they are growing in terms of their use of online coupons.
  • Rural county residents are more tech-savvy than extreme rural county residents
  • Rural consumers are less likely to use coupon sites like Groupon or Living Social because those sites are targeted to large metro areas.

Top Affiliate Sites Used by all Consumers

  • 64% of consumers use
  • Rural county consumers continue using print coupons, but they are growing in terms of their use of online coupons.
  • 62% of consumers are aware of and use RetailMeNot.
  • The most used coupons from affiliate sites are:
    • Groceries
    • Restaurants
    • Household goods
    • Apparel
    • Healthy & beauty
Source: Statista

Popular Rural Retailers in the Affiliate Channel

  • National chain grocery stores such as Safeway, Kroger, Publix and Wal-Mart, were some of the first stores to offer digital coupons.
  • Dollar General then followed suit launching a partnership with
  • Ace Hardware also began online coupons for customers to have on their mobile device and even via text message.
  • More than half of U.S. digital coupon users have found deals through emails from retailers, or through search engine websites like Google and Bing on their phones.