Social Media and Older Demographics

By Mark Evans - Friday, June 24th, 2011 at 7:30 am  

Not that long ago, social media was seen as a young person’s game – a notion perpetuated by Facebook’s emergence into the mainstream from its roots as a social network used by university students.

The new reality, however, is that social is no longer a young person’s game. In fact, it’s becoming a landscape dominated by older users. According to a recent study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 52% of social networking users are 35+, compared with 34% in 2008.

Users in the 50-to- 65-year-old demographic jumped to 20% from 9%, while users who are more than 65-years-old (aka grandparents) tripled to 6% from 2%. (The chart below shows the breakdown between 2010 and 2008)

So what does this mean to social media?

The biggest impact will be on social media marketing because older people have more disposable income than younger people. We’re talking about Baby Boomers in the latter stages of their careers whose incomes have risen along their experience. As well, Baby Boomers in the U.S. are slated to inherit $8.4-trillion.

For marketers, this is a huge market with lots of money to spend on real estate, travel, electronics, luxury goods, clothing, dining, etc. For companies looking to drive sales, the target audience should be people who are more than 50-years-old because they have lots of dough to spend.

For social media, it should mean that marketing and advertising dollars will star to flow into places with a lot of older users such as Facebook.¬†For anyone looking to get a better handle on Facebook’s revenue growth and its IPO prospects, Pew’s study offers a lot of food for thought.

In many respects, the demographic shift that people have been talking about in the last couple of years will start assume more importance as advertisers move more of their overall spending online and, in the process, allocate more to social networks.

Money talks, and so do demographics. The Pew study thrusts both issues into the spotlight and, as important, sets the stage for some serious financial and economic consequences.

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