Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Graying of Social Media

As marketers, we all know that the social media landscape has changed drastically in the last five years.  But most of us don’t realize that these changes are spurring on a whole new audience to enter the social media scene.

Supported by research from Pew Internet, a sub-project of the Pew Research Center focusing on Internet and American Life, this far-reaching growth is due to a large number of older adults participating in social media networks, including Facebook, LinekdIn, etc.   The reports states, “social networking use among internet users ages 50 and older has nearly doubled – from 22% to 42% over the past year (April 2009-May 2010) (Pew Internet, 2).”

And these new social network users aren’t just interested in standing on the sidelines when it comes to this new fad.  “Among the pool of adults ages 50 and older who use social networking sites, 44% used them on the day prior to their being contacted for our survey," according to the Pew Internet research (4).  As you can see, older adults are showing they truly are plugged into social media.

So what is driving older adults to join the social network movement?  Looking back to the Pew Internet study, there are a few strong reasons for increased social network use.

1.     Social networking sites provide opportunities to reconnect with people from their past, which serves to provide “a powerful support network when people near retirement or embark on a new career (Pew Internet, 6).”
2.    Older adults living with these diseases are more likely to reach out for support online (Pew Internet, 6).
3.    Social media bridges generational gaps and social spaces connect users from very different parts of people’s lives and provide the opportunity to share skills across generational divides (Pew Internet, 7).

What does this mean?  This shifting demographic is changing the tide on how social media is both used and implemented by marketers. Not only must we broaden our understanding of the media used to target older adults, but we must also think differently about the messages we send.  For instance, maybe the marketing messages created for use in social media for younger generations is similarly accepted by older generations utilzing those same sites.  Therefore, marketers may need to reconsider their social media (or lack of social media strategy) when it comes to older adults and take into consideration what is driving them to visit these sites.  

What are your thoughts? Has your company's social media strategy changed recently to include older adults into the audience? Have you seen the gap narrow in your marketing messages as it relates to your various audiences?  If not, what would need to change for this to happen?

Jennifer Broman is a recent college graduate from Gustavus Adolphus College with a strong passion for the marketing industry.  She has gained marketing experience at Clarity Coverdale Fury, full-service advertising agency in Minneapolis, and a division of Lifetouch Photography, a Minnesota-based company who operates the portrait studios in Target and JCPenney.  Currently, she is serving as the MN AMA Blog Content Manager.
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Jackie said...

Just happy to hear that social networking is becoming more widely accepted. It will not change how I am doing things, but it is nice to know that more of my potential customers are communicating via the social web!

Jennifer Broman said...

Thanks for your comment Jackie! I do agree, it is an exicting time for social media as we all experience the huge impact it will have on the future of marketing.

owenmunger said...

As social marketing becomes more accepted, there also becomes the need to put the advertisements in the most effective spots possible. This is similar to the way that mailing lists are essential to the success of a direct marketing campaign.

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