Interacting via social media isn’t the preserve of the young

Following on from my post previously from The Times here another interesting read was found in the 16th April issue of NMA where Rebecca Jennings, Principal Analyst at Forrester Research wrote a similar piece how an older age than expected is using social media. The following is a repost of that article.

Most interactive marketers know that young consumers are very engaged in social media, but many fail to appreciate that the same social tools can also be used to reach older users. Recent Forrester research shows there are a significant number of European baby boomers – adults aged 43-63 – who already read social media on a regular basis, and another, slightly smaller subset who are already uploading their own content, like videos, onto the web. Marketers can take advantage of this by offering them value with useful information and support provided in a social context.

Overall, 47% of younger boomers – those online adults aged 43 to 52 – now engage with social media on a regular basis, as well as the 41% of older boomers – those aged 53 to 63 – that also take part. In each of the groups, more than a third can be classified as spectators, or those who are reading social content such as blogs at least monthly.

While boomers are taking the plunge into consuming social content, they’ve been slower at joining social networks; just 10% of younger boomers and just 7% of older boomers participate in this type of activity. For example, one of the most popular social networks aimed at older consumers, SagaZone in the UK, has around 45,000 users, compared to Facebook’s estimated 18m+ users.

Despite their resistance to joining social networks, both young and old boomers are contributing their own opinions online – known as being a critic. These critics do things like participate in forums or post their own reviews online. Encouragingly for marketers, around a tenth of both age groups fall in to this category and a slightly smaller percentage, 9% of younger boomers and 7% of older ones, are creators: those who upload their own content or write their own blogs.

Marketers should also take note that just as participation in social media varies between age groups, it also varies between European countries. Dutch boomers lead the pack as the most engaged older audience overall, with 69% of 43-52 year olds and 60% of 53-63 year olds using social media on a regular basis.Of these other Europeans, Italian boomers are the keenest creators, with around 17% of younger boomers and 14% of older boomers involved. Younger boomers in the UK are considerably more engaged than older ones, with around 52% of 43-52 year olds engaged in social media, but just 38% of 53-63 year olds. About 40% of boomers in both France and Spain are keen spectators but just a third of the German boomer audience are engaged in social media.

Midlife chatterers show they like to keep it short and tweet

The following is an article written by Murad Ahmed, Technology Reporter and featured in the British newspaper, The Times, today (Monday, April 13th) so for those that didn’t see it or are over in the US and elsewhere this is for you. (I’ve added in a few Twitter cartoons just for fun..)

Twitter appears to be the embodiment of youth culture with tech-savvy and fast-thumbed teens firing off short updates filled with abbreviations about their lives. But it turns out that the keenest users are the greying brigades of the middle aged.

More mature users, led by famous tweeters such as Stephen Fry, Jonathan Ross and Sarah Brown, are the driving force behind the popularity of the site. New research shows that 45-54 years olds are 36 percent more likely than the average to visit the site, with figures from comScore, the internet market researchers, showing that the majority of the 10 million Twitter users worldwide are aged 35 or older.

Twitter Cartoon

Twitter is a social networking and “microblogging” site, where users post short updates – “tweets” of up to 140 characters via the website or a mobile phone. More than 3.5 million people signed up in the first two months of this year.

Celebrities such as Russell Brand and Jamie Oliver are avid users, while Barack Obama used it as a tool during last year’s presidential elections to talk directly and quickly to hundreds and thousands of followers.

Stephen Fry, 51, the actor and comedian whose tweets are followed by about 400,000 people, has become a leading advocate for the service. “I love how Twitter confirms all too often assaulted belief that most humans are kind, curious, knowledgeable, tolerant and funny” he wrote on his blog. (Is your Twitter page a blog in the traditional form? I’m not so sure)

Celebrity tweeters have pushed others towards the site “It’s the role model thing” said Richard Drake, 51, from London. “You see Stephen Fry and think, they’re doing it, so why can’t you?” You’re not teenagers, so you’re no longer following the crowd to the same degree perhaps. “But you think, well, he’s finding it interesting, there’s something happening there, and people my age are doing it.”

Twitter Cartoon
Other social networking websites, such as Facebook and MySpace have also seen an increase in the number of older people signing up in recent months. But the simplicity of Twitter has made it most popular with the golden oldies and 2o percent of all tweeters in Britain are over the age of 55, compared with 12 percent of all Facebook users.

However, it seems that the young are being put off by the increasing number of older users. “I do think there’s a feeling that, if your parents are doing it, suddenly it’s not cool any more” said Jamie Gavin, an analyst at comScore.

Ageing tweeters also said that whereas Facebook seemed to reveal every aspect of your life – something the young seem more at ease at doing – Twitter was less intrusive, and often is used by people at work. “I only Twitter professionally,” said Ian Williams, 41, an executive at a price comparison website. “For us, it’s just another communications tool. That’s the beauty of Twitter, if you decide something is not interesting or inane, you can stop following it. It’s just not invasive”Twitter Cartoon