Social Media: An Age Old Problem

Recently, I have been running into a consistent objection with non-profits and businesses who are contemplating their initial dive into the social media pool.

They are concerned that social media – you know, that Facebook thing or the tweeter, twitter, whatever you call it – is for the – and I’m quoting here – ‘youngsters’.

Clearly, these objectionists are neither ‘youngsters’ nor are they spending too much, if any, time on social media.

And, though I point out to them that the average age on Facebook is roughly 38 they tend to crinkle their noses and scoff (scoff, I say!).

Then last week the Pew Internet & American Life Project released a study called Older Adults and Social Media. Some of the findings won’t surprise you – but will come as a revelation to ‘them’.

While overall use of social media has been climbing dramatically in the past year, the percentage of Internet users over 50 has almost doubled – from 22% to 42%.  Although e-mail remains the primary communications medium this demographic prefers they are rapidly adopting the ways of social media.

But, that’s not all.

When you look inside the numbers, 47% of Internet users 50-64 now play in social media and almost one quarter of those over 65 do as well.

While younger users still tend to dominate social media more heavily the older demos are where the growth is.

Take a look at this chart from the Pew study:

One of the interesting conclusions they draw from the study is that social media bridges the generation gap. Older adults may be drawn to social media to connect with long lost friends or to see family photos. As they spend more time communicating within their safety framework they also become less intimidated by the technology. This leads them beyond their limited ken and on to discovering fan pages and business pages and other forms of interaction.

Now, compare the above information to this from Nielsen:

Texting is dominated by the under 18 set and it isn’t even close. Note the dramatic drop after the age of 24.  If your target donor or customer is 12-24 – then you have to find a way to market via text. However, if you’re dealing with adults – regardless of their age – social media is where they play.

Every single day.

We are all guilty of forming perceptions based on what we do and who we surround ourselves with. I’m sure the objectionists I have spoken with have a healthy support group of peers who agree that social media marketing is not for ‘their’ group. And they may be right. They probably have newsprint on their fingers, too.

But 500 million Facebook patrons represent an enormous pool of prospects and patrons that simply cannot be ignored.

As the Pew study shows, participation in social media continues to climb at an extremely accelerated rate. Eventually, this curve will begin to flatten out.

It has to.

We’re not getting any younger.

Your thoughts?

Steve Allan

Social Media Specialist


About Steve Allan

I am a Social Media specialist uniquely focused on the management, messaging and marketing of social media platforms for non-profits and small businesses.
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3 Responses to Social Media: An Age Old Problem

  1. Dewg says:

    Great post today, Steve. The charts instantly reveal what many companies do not want to acknowledge. Brands which don’t have a social media strategy will limit their own growth and deprive themselves of a tangible connection to their most ardent fans, the very ones most likely to want to evangelize about them.

  2. Tom says:

    Two points: Brand loyalty is built over years. The earlier you start the better. If you’re blowing off the youngins’ you’re short sighted.

    And anyone that doesn’t believe that social media is an important part of a marketing plan is equally as short sighted.

  3. This is RIGHT ON target 🙂 The over-55 set is TIRED of condescending information being “pushed” at them from “all the usual suspects.” They are savvy and discerning. Grandma may have a Harley and grandpa has a 5,000-song play list for his iPod … That includes The Cure and Nine Inch Nails. Of COURSE they are active participants in social media! This is the most socially conscious generation we’ve ever seen!

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