We are often asked what role social networking plays in the lives of Affluent Americans—are they on Facebook? Twitter? If so, how much time do Affluents spend on these sites? Generally speaking, those who ask are skeptical—surely the Affluent, they figure, are too busy or too old-school to spend much time with online social networks. Our data suggest that Affluents have been socially networking with gusto for several years, and that this is one of many areas where popular notions of Affluent lives are shaped by stereotypes and misconceptions.
Affluent Millennials (18-29)
Affluent Gen Xers (30-44)
Affluent Boomers (45-64)
Affluent Seniors (65+)
% visiting in past 30 days
Hours used per week (among users)
Among adults aged 18+ living in households with at least $100,000 in annual household income.
Of course, Facebook and Twitter aren’t the only names in the social networking world. More than half of Affluents visit YouTube each month. Fourteen percent visit LinkedIn. And there are significant segments of Affluents using photo-sharing sites, dating sites, class reunion sites, and so on.
It is hard to overstate how fully social media becomes intertwined into the lives of some of its users. Among Affluents, 32% agree “I usually check e-mail or Facebook within 30 minutes of waking up in the morning”—a figure that rises to 50% among Affluent Millennials. And in an era where anyone can create and disseminate content, the lines continue to blur between social and traditional media for the Affluent. Many Facebook users have told us it is increasingly becoming a source for information and links to stories from mainstream media. And on Twitter, only about 5% tweet in a given week (15% among Affluent Millennials), with the rest being consumers of content, rather than producers.
Of course, it is important to put online social networking in context with offline social networking. Nearly two-thirds of Affluents do some online social networking in a given week using traditional social media websites (Facebook, Myspace, LinkedIn and Twitter), but 92% also do “offline” social networking by telephone, and 86% also do so with actual in-person, face-to-face conversations.
A similar story about the prevalence of offline social networking also emerges across generations. Affluent Seniors—the 5.2 million Affluents 65 or older—may lag in their Facebook usage, but they are far more likely to engage in a variety of “offline” social, political, civic and non-profit activities. Affluent Seniors are, for example, more likely to vote, belong to a golf or country club, and serve on a charitable board of directors. And while seniors may lag in their number of LinkedIn contacts, they are more likely to have a variety of business relationships, such as a relationship with a financial advisor.
When we’re asked if the Affluent are “into” social networking, our answer is a clear “yes.” The desire to “socially network” is not as young as Mark Zuckerberg—it is in fact as old as humanity itself. So it should come as no surprise that new ways of connecting appeal to a population that is almost-universally online (our survey finds that 98% of Affluents are online). But those in advertising and media must realize that the dynamics of social networking are deceptively complex, including a mix of online and offline activities that differ substantially across generational and other segments.