There are Facebook groups for people born in the 1950s, 60s, and 70s with member counts in the hundreds (one for people born in the 50s has over 800 members). It’s likely that a very small percentage of seniors have joined groups on Facebook, and the data shows that millions of users ages 50-64 and 65+ are using Facebook. Early in Facebook’s life groups like this did not exist.
Joanne Woeppel joined Facebook to better keep track of her 13 grandkids.
Parents and professionals have been adopting Facebook and Twitter at a rapidly increasing rate for the past 3 years. This trend continues and while many younger uses have started using other sites as well (such as Pinterest and Tumblr) older generations seem to be using Facebook to keep in contact with family and old friends.
A report published by iStrategyLabs said the first half of 2009 saw a 194.3% growth rate in the 55+ demo.
The 35-54 year old demo is growing fastest, with a 276.4% growth rate over the approximate 6 months since iStrategyLabs’ previous report. Many of these social network users will be hearing aid customers in 10, 20, 30 years. Some of them are in their 60s, 70s, and 80s already so they could be customers today.
Facebook’s ad targeting means it’s possible to have zero waste. You can target by age, so you won’t be paying to have millions of teenagers look at your hearing aid ad.
In 2009 there were far more older individuals on Facebook than teenagers. The 55+ age group grew by 922.7% in 2009! The 35-54 demographic grew by a substantial 328.1% in the same time frame.
In 2011 the Pew Internet Project did a survey that asked 2,277 adults (aged 18+) about their social media use. What they found was that use among folks aged 50 to 64 has jumped to 32% – that’s up 60% from last year’s number which was only 20%.
In the same timeframe the 30 and below crowd grew only 1%.
Baby boomers are most definitely making daily use of Facebook and many of its tools. Seniors are also testing the waters and are developing better knowledge and awareness of social networks. What does this mean for small business? Social media should factor into your marketing plan even if it shouldn’t be your focus.
An eMarketer report showed that many small business owners don’t think social media is key to their business plans. Only 12% said that “social media is a must,” and 43% said that it’s “not necessary to my business.” The 24% that said they do it when they have the time and the 14% that “don’t know enough about it” are also very important and typical of many small business owners.
When you’re running a small business–between the financial side of staying in business, dealing with employees, probably doing a lot of the work yourself–who has the time to learn about social media and then regularly promote yourself on multiple sites?
The evidence points to more and more people, including the population of people 50+ (especially 65+), beginning to flock to sites like Twitter and Facebook. So, can small businesses ignore social media as a tool?
Older people in general are more guarded in disclosing personal information online. We’re quickly learning this is a smart move, but at the same time, limiting the amount of information on any social network profile hinders the reach of that page from the very beginning. Sites like Facebook and Twitter have developed much better security features in the past few years, so this is no longer as much of an issue.
Still, a 55 year old mother of eight may not want to put her birthday, location, religion, and details about her job on her public Facebook profile. Especially when she doesn’t understand certain features like poking or what certain relationship statuses imply. Not that they are very important features if her main use is communicating with family on the site.
The Pew Internet Project also says Twitter use has increased among seniors. From 2009 to 2010 alone, users ages 50-64 using Twitter increased from 5% to 11%. Those who make Twitter a part of their daily routine: 6%, up from 1% the previous year. Those are significant increases over a period of only one year. Adults ages 50-64 who say they use social networking sites on a typical day doubled from 10% to 20%.
Email is still king of electronic communication for older generations. A whopping 92% of people between the ages of 50 and 64 and 89% 65 and older send or read email. More than half of each group uses email every day.
Social media is the stickiest of the methods of communication. There is always something new to come back to, always new updates or photos to browse. “Stickiness” is becoming the most important aspect of online communication because of the amount of noise on the internet.
Image credit: Quinn Dombrowski