In addition to connecting people all over the world, social media is a great leveler, attracting users from all walks of life and income brackets -- including the rich. A new survey from SEI Networks found that 70% of people with net worth of $5 million or more (whom I classify as the "pretty rich," to distinguish them from the "superrich," worth $100 million or more) are on Facebook or a similar social media site. That proportion is significantly higher than the population at large, with 61% of U.S. adults using social networks according to Pew Research Center.
Among the 70% who used social networks, 50% (35% of the total) said they use Facebook, 37% (26% of the total) said they visit YouTube, and 35% (24.5% of the total) use LinkedIn. The high proportion of pretty rich people using social media is especially noteworthy because these individuals tend to skew older than the general population, defying the conventional wisdom that older adults don't use social media as much as younger people.
Indeed, the average age of individuals heading households worth $5 million or more is 67, according to "Affluent Market Insights," a series of annual reports from the Spectrem Group. Meanwhile the proportion of U.S. adults ages 65+, of all income brackets, who use social media was just 26% in September, according to Pew. Comparing the numbers, it seems clear that pretty-rich older adults are far more likely to use social media than their non-rich peers. Of course, there are also a good number of younger adults worth $5 million or more (including The Situation Jersey Shore's steroidal impresario).
However, the high penetration of social networks among the pretty rich doesn't necessarily translate into frequent use, simply because these affluent individuals often don't have the time, according to SEI. A mere 17.4% of respondents said they use social media on a daily basis, compared to 38% of the population at large.
That's not surprising. Separately, the Spectrem reports showed that the most popular careers among individuals heading households worth $5 million or more are senior corporate executives, business owners and physicians or dentists -- occupations which don't leave much time for idle Facebook surfing. And another survey from PNC Financial Services Group found that 43% of wealthy business owners said they enjoyed their work so much they wanted to continue working past the age of 70.
By the way, in case anyone is concerned about the plight of the rich during the economic downturn, rest assured that these plucky, resilient survivors appear to be on the rebound. According to Spectrem the number of U.S. households worth $5 million or more fell from 1.14 million in 2007 to 840,000 in 2008, but then climbed back to 980,000 in 2009.