Social Media Redux: It's Here To Stay

by , Feb 8, 2010, 8:52 AM
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Last month, I asked "What Matters Now," and many of you responded with a desire to better understand Boomers and their use of social media. Since then, both Continuum Crew and eMarketer have published studies that suggest Boomers are warming up to social media, becoming increasingly a digitally networked generation. This trend provides important opportunities for marketers.

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.

emarkter chart

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.

emarkter chart

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

  • Include social media in plans to reach Boomers: it is clear that social networks are not a passing phase for Boomers. Like others, they are finding that online social networks enhance their existing relationships.
  • Join them at the networks they already frequent; don't create a separate unique network for them based on their age: Boomers want to connect with their friends and family across generations. They don't want to be segregated by age.
  • Create "share worthy content": Boomers aren't just lurking on social networks, they are sharing and recruiting. Give them content they deem worthy of sharing or a reason to "recruit" others. For instance, the Facebook bra meme drew significant numbers of Boomer women into it; this was not a meme of just younger women. Organizations like Doctors Without Borders, UNICEF and other cause groups are finding tremendous success attracting Boomers as well as younger generations to their causes.
  • Don't be afraid to incorporate video and pictures for Boomers to share: Half of Boomers on social networks have watched videos, uploaded pictures or read someone's blog.
  • Finally, social media shouldn't replace traditional media yet for this age cohort: While Boomers are embracing social networks, they still spend significant amounts of time with traditional media -- television, newspapers and magazines -- more so than younger generations.

0 comments on "Social Media Redux: It's Here To Stay ".

  1. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited
    commented on: February 8, 2010 at 1:11 p.m.

    If the growth is going so much in this direction, then many of the At Home users need to be educated about privacy and they do not have what they think they have because they think FB is not a public site. STD's have made a mad rush in the older generations who didn't understand how they are at risk.

  2. John Fredette from Alcatel-Lucent
    commented on: February 8, 2010 at 3:14 p.m.

    Speaking as a younger boomer, it is disconcerting to see one's generational behavior discussed in such analytical terms by a member of another generation. For me it underlies the fact that we were raised believing we were the youngest, coolest generation ever and marketers do well to remember that even though we, when pushed, will admit that such a description no longer fits. Anything that makes us feel marginalized or diminished in any way is not going to fly. A site realistically dedicated to actual boomer concerns (aging, retirement etc) would feel like watching the Lawrence Welk show with our parents and tuning out the Geritol ads. Flatter us and stroke our highly developed egos or you will not connect. I'm just saying...

  3. Bruce Christensen from PartyWeDo
    commented on: February 8, 2010 at 5:43 p.m.

    I believe that the most important suggestion that you make is: "Boomers need a multi-generational network and thus far only Facebook fits the bill."

    As the huge mass of younger Boomers start loosing their children to distant locations, these "empty nest" parents will swell the Facebook ranks to stay connected with grown children. Applications that connect the generations will benefit the most from this trend. (Just watch the growth trends of Family Link on Facebook)

    Once these Boomers learn the value of the system, they will greatly expand the network through an invitation to everyone they know with similar situations.

    I discussed this idea that Facebook is showing these Boomers the right way to participate: http://bit.ly/4IiUHI

  4. Barry Dennis from netweb/Omni
    commented on: February 9, 2010 at 12:55 a.m.

    Lifestyles...not Boomers.
    Matures...not Boomers.(still weak-er).
    Activities...not Boomers.
    Think Features and Benefits...not Boomers.

    Think....differently.

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