Shattering one of the most common stereotypes about social network adoption, NM Incite (a joint venture of Nielsen and McKinsey) found that "Internet users over the age of 55 are driving the growth of social networking through the Mobile Internet," according to the most recent "State of the Media: The Social Media Report" from NM Incite, covering the third quarter of 2011. Americans in this age cohort showed the biggest increase in mobile social networking activity, up 109% from the same period in 2010, compared to a 68% increase among people ages 35-54 and a 61% increase among people ages 18-34.
The data is especially interesting because (as one might expect) the heaviest social network users overall are ages 18-34, with women especially well-represented. Overall 97% of social network users visit via their computer, while 37% visit via a mobile phone; much smaller proportions access social networks via gaming consoles or iPads (3% each). Overall NM Incite data show that social networking apps are the third most-used among U.S. smartphone owners, with 60% of smartphone owners downloading them, while 40% of social media users access social media content from their mobile device.
The NM Incite data also revealed some interesting differences in usage patterns between the genders. For example, while a larger number of women view online video on social networks and blogs, it turns out men are the heaviest online video users overall, streaming more videos and watching them than their female counterparts. At the risk of being indelicate, I wonder how much of this increased video consumption is online pornography (and whether Nielsen even measures this).
The survey confirmed some earlier data suggesting that social network users are more receptive to e-commerce than other Internet users: 70% of online social network users also shop online, compared to just 58% for adult Internet users in general. They are 75% more likely to be heavy spenders on music, and 47% more likely to be heavy spenders on clothing, shoes and accessories. Fifty-three percent of them are currently following a brand on a social media site. On the media front, they are 33% more likely to share their opinions on TV programs online.