Social Media and Older Demographics

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.

4 Comments on “Social Media and Older Demographics”

  1. Great article Mark. As the social media becomes more mainstream and mature, like many other societal trends, it will become representative of the population. So yes, the 35+ segment currently represents 52% of all usage but what percentage of the population are they? And although all 35+ segments grew, the youth segment of 23-35 still remains the strongest, which also happens to be the most lucrative consumer segment (18-34).

    The older demographics will clearly attract attention, I’m not denying that. But comparing 18-35 to 35+ is a little outlandish. That’s a very significant skew in numbers and life stages.

    Equally, “% of SNS users” does not equate to “% of SNS usage”, something that is easily still a “young person’s game” for a variety of reasons. When it comes to activity and usage, the same PEW study presented shows 18-22 and 23-35 lead a significant majority of social media numbers.

    To say “it’s becoming a landscape dominated by older users” is a very arbitrary fact. These days, there’s a case to be made for all-sides really and that’s the beauty of it. Ultimately, it depends on who you are and what you’re trying to sell.

    You’re right “money talks, and so do demographics.” In lamest terms 52% of SNS users still leaves 48% out there. And trust, no one is going to skip over that.

  2. As a 40 something year old who was on the bandwagon very early I noticed this trend as well. Most of my clients are older than I- several years ago getting them involved in social media for enhanced communication was not happening. Now, they ask me about how to better utilize what they are already doing. Soon, young people will be unimpressed as the older generation further embraces social media 😉

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