by karen on June 14, 2011

Among the topics about which I am frequently asked is the age profile of social media users.

Despite rapid growth in the internet usage and social media activity of older people, perceptions continue to dominate that it’s a young people’s activity, for those looking to ‘get down there with the kids’, or risk the abandonment of privacy on joining Facebook.

Quite the contrary, with Facebook currently demonstrating the fastest growth among the 55-64 age group. Whilst a proportion of the silver surfer generation might still be learning to master the art of switching on their mobiles, they are fast becoming keen addicts of Facebook posts and ‘likes’.

Witness also the advent of, a social networking website launched by Mumsnet for the UK’s 14 million grandparents (no doubt to start threads on why putting brandy in baby’s milk is such a good idea!).

Social media stats from in late 2010 estimated the average age of a Twitter user to be 39, for Facebook 38 and LinkedIn 44, although these averages had increased significantly from 31, 26 and 40 respectively compared with 2009. Just under half of internet users 50-64 and over a quarter of internet users 60+ were using social networking sites, and three in five users or Facebook and Twitter users were over the age of 35.  We await the next update with interest…

Interesting research also from Paratus Communication’s Global Index Web Lite, which found that:

  • 18-24’s usage of social media revolves more around ‘time-wasting’ activities, relationships and browsing humorous content. When they Tweet about brands, it is considered an open invitation to engage with them in discussion about that brand and its competitors.
  • for 25-34s, it’s all about news and events, blogs and discussion forums. But they are especially cynical about brands, which need to be communicated in a ‘proper’ way.
  • the 35-44s turn to social media for inspiration and are relatively open to brand engagement.
  • at 45-54, research is key; on products, and on how to do things. They are more open than average to brand engagement.
  • for the 55+ (this open range no doubt masks different sub-age group trends), online radio and other online ‘traditional’ media is a definite winner. They are more supportive of targeted online ads than the average. 

The main barriers to social media participation among older people used to be (a) it’s too technical and (b) it’s too anti-social, although both of these objections have already been overcome by millions of older people with a desire to engage in research, conversations and potentially brand loyalty. 

And presumably the older generation are also now familiar with with the findings of a study presented at the US Society for Neuroscience, which found that older people exposed to Web surfing for the first time showed increased brain activity in regions associated with language and working memory.  Business owners – ignore at your peril!

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