In the past year, the number of people over 50 years old who use social networking nearly doubled, and the increases are set to continue in the coming years. Mature Internet users log onto social networking sites with the intention of reconnecting with their old friends and keeping up with younger family members who have long embraced social media use. Users 50 and older are flocking to two social networking platforms in particular: Facebook and Twitter.
In April 2009, one in five U.S. social media users were over 50. By May 2010, the number rose to two in five, according to the Internet & American Life Project conducted by the Pew Research Center. While these figures may come as a surprise, the use of social media by people over 65 grew from 13 percent in April 2009 to more than a quarter of all users in May 2010.
Reaching out to family and friends is not the only reason why the older generations are flocking to these sites: some older individuals are seeking outside communication to prevent loneliness and find support for the chronic illnesses from which they suffer.
While young adults make up the largest proportion of social networking users, they look set to be over-taken by older users. The growth in the 18-to-29 age group pales in comparison to the growth in the older generation of social networking users.
Twitter is among the most popular social networking sites for older Internet users. In the year 2009, only 5 percent of Internet users between the ages of 50 and 64 claimed possession of a Twitter account. Fast forward by one year and 11 percent of Internet users in this age group now say they use the service.
The recent statistics on Internet use among the older generation may lead some to ask why more people aged 50 and over aren’t making use of the Internet. One major answer to this is their lack of broadband accessibility. Many older Internet users are reluctant or unable to switch to broadband Internet. This may be due to the higher cost of broadband connection or the lack of high-speed Internet connections in the area in which they reside. However, it has been found that as older adults get high-speed Internet access, they become increasingly reliant on the Internet and the convenience and amenities it provides.
Will the older generation eventually outnumber the younger generation on social media sites such as Twitter and Facebook? A study by the online gaming website Roiworld conducted in June 2010 found that many young Facebook users closed their accounts around the same time their parents joined the site. Others terminated their Facebook use because they felt the site was being taken over by the older generation. This has lead to the launch of sites that permit social networking by college students only. These sites are set to become a popular way for adolescents to chat with their friends without the snooping parents, grandparents and potential future employers.
Having the skills and ability to keep up with emerging social media is an important aspect in staying connected with the younger generation and other social media users. Now, more than ever, social media is expanding to consume not only individuals, but businesses as well, delivering important information about the company, events, products and services. The older Internet users could greatly benefit from the ability and ease of accessing information through social media.
If your business would like to develop a comprehensive internet marketing campaign designed to target featured demographics, we can help.