It was almost a year ago when I noticed Boomers experimenting with social networks. At that time, a Pew Internet and American Life Project study found that 20% of online adults 45-54 years old (the "younger" Boomers) and 10% of online adults 55-64 (the "older" Boomers) were participating in social networks. Since then, there has been some debate as to whether Boomers had truly adopted social media. Some argued that Boomers were only experimenting but not hooked. Recent studies, though, suggest otherwise: that Boomers are, in fact, joining and participating in social networks. Deloitte late last year found that 46% of Boomers maintain at least one social networking profile -- up significantly from 2007.
They are not only creating these profiles, they are also visiting and interacting on these networks with regularity. According to Pew's more recent study, 85% of younger Boomers and 73% of older Boomers checked into social networking sites at least once a week or more.
And, the social network they are most likely to frequent is Facebook. According to comScore, roughly 60% of social networking Boomers -- 22.6 million -- used Facebook in October 2009; no other social network comes close.
Other firms like Continuum Crew, Anderson Analytics and Burst Media found similar trends.
It's not entirely surprising that Facebook is their social network of choice since Boomers view social networks as a way to stay in touch with family and friends. According to Anderson Analytics, 58% of Boomers state that this is the reason they use social networks. This may also explain why Boomer-specific social networks never took off. Boomers need a multi-generational network and thus far only Facebook fits the bill: it offers Boomers access to old friends as well as their children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews and younger friends.
Most Boomers also learned of a social network from a friend who sent an invite, suggesting that this demographic group is just as open to sharing discoveries as younger groups.
And, if you're thinking, "Well, so what does this have to do with selling a product?," you should know that Boomers who use social networks are twice as likely, according to Anderson Analytics, to purchase products online than those who don't.
Implications for Marketers