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Boomers and Zoomers: The Social Web Grows Up

Posted by Sheila Shayon on August 31, 2010 03:00 PM

As Boomers continue to age, their social media skills are ripening. The latest Pew Internet survey reveals that social networking among Internet users in the 50+ segment nearly doubled, from 22% in April 2009 to 42% in May 2010.

“Young adults continue to be the heaviest users of social media, but their growth pales in comparison with recent gains made by older users,” comments Mary Madden, Senior Research Specialist and author of the report.

That's not to say that there's now a deluge of 50+ to contend with on the social web, she adds: “Email is still the primary way that older users maintain contact with friends, families and colleagues, but many older users now rely on social network platforms to help manage their daily communications.” More on the new Pew online stats after the jump.

Pew's latest Internet study found that 20% of the online adult population between the ages of 50 and 64 use social networking sites on a typical day, up 10% from last year.

And among "senior citizens" aged 65+, 13% log on daily compared to 4% in 2009. Those Boomers are beginning to tweet and friend, as one in 10 users over 50 use Twitter or a comparable service for sharing updates about themselves or keeping track of friends.

What does this mean for brands? Think low-hanging fruit, a new and growing crop of customers to engage with and the ability to leverage their extended social networks.

How to do this requires some nuance germane to the cohort. One example is Charles Orlando, a social media maven who has gathered 59,000 Facebook fans in just the last six months, 97% of whom are women.

The author of The Problem with Women...is Men took to Facebook to promote his book, and comments, "I've been in the trenches with my book's Fan Page for the last year...and much of what I've accomplished has to do with three clear things: tone/voice, relevant and valuable content, and non-'salesy' engagement. ... This was accomplished with pure word of mouth. Not a dime has gone into an online advertising."

As the phenomenon of social media engagement increasingly embraces the Boomer demo and psychographic, Foursquare may become the next meeting place for teens and their grandparents…a new digital awkward for both.


Josip Petrusa Canada says:

I'm always so interested to see that for some reason no one ever thought the Boomers would never show interest into social media. What is interesting though is how this will change social media. Like everything else, we all don't want to include everyone every step of the way. Just like we don't tell our parents and grandparents everything, we will hardly connect with them online. Could I be wrong? Maybe. But I doubt many people will include closer relationships any closer to their online lives. We don't tell everyone everything in person. And we'll hardly say it all online. Will Boomers act and connect like Millennials and Gen-X or will they establish their own behaviours. Info on that would be fascinating.

August 31, 2010 06:03 PM #

S. Shayon says:

Good questions all. My bet is that online behaviors will mimic real life as you suggest - and that Boomers will interact differently from Millennials and Gen-X'ers. The latter are truly digtial natives - while Boomers are more digital adopters.
Thanks for your comments.
S. Shayon

August 31, 2010 10:34 PM #

Anne Nena Netherlands says:

Actually Im  Gen X. And it really bugs me out when im on some website and want to add something or join a meetup and its automatically linked on facebook! No I dont want everyone who I know to know what Im doing all the time. I just dont So I think the fact of not oversharing is not only for those who are boomers.


September 2, 2010 03:18 PM #

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