Paul M. Banas on Consumer Insights, Marketing Research, and the Digital Media Landscape
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The Social Networking Age Gap

Is Social Networking an age thing?

While all ages tend to use the Internet to search, shop, and even post photos, as this table from eMarketer shows, Social Networking tends to be mainly something for people under 40.

social networking 40 plus

The question is why?

Respondents to the JWT Boom/ThirdAge study cited by eMarketer said the main concerns were privacy, time and just not seeing the point of Social Networking.

Although each of these barriers may eventually be overcome, it will probably be a tough road, since things like lack of time or perceived irrelevance are not simply matters to be solved by broader awareness or easier user interfaces.

What I believe may actually have a significant impact on the broader adoption of Social Networking is if it moves out from the home and becomes fully integrated into people’s work lives.

Chris Heuer at Insytes has written a very thought provoking post that touches on how Social Media can foster stronger internal communication and collaboration within companies. Companies can then think about Social Media in new ways, even in areas such as organizational development.

“Social Media is not just about how an enterprise does its marketing, but how all the people in the enterprise talks with its market.

Internal Social Networking is already being experimented with in companies such as the Beehive project at IBM and N-Square at Nissan. As McKinsey & Co. consultant Leigh Weiss says about the benefits of the Nissan initiative:

“What we know from research is that one of the primary reasons people stay at the same company is that they’re well tied into the social fabric of the place…Companies will often lose top performers because they aren’t sufficiently mentored or connected.”

With Social Networking established in companies as a tool for internal discussion and work groups, I think the perceived value of the medium will increase for everyone, even for those people who are currently watching from the sidelines.

At that point the relevancy of Social Media in general will also increase, which will then likely lead to broader adoption and usage across all ages, potentially closing the Social Networking age gap as it exists today.

2 comments

1 Paul M. Banas (the other one) { 06.11.08 at 5:24 pm }

I had my first website in 1995, developed the first packaged goods website for Ragu Pasta Sauce, and have worked in technology most of my career. But when it comes to social networking, my age defines me. I am 50 and, while I have a Facebook page, have very little interest in sharing my life (or more of it than I already have to while running a parenting website called GreatDad.com) on the internet.

On the other hand, increases in social networking tools are inevitable with more instances of it than people can readily identify. We will also be networked eventually.

2 Chris W. { 06.18.08 at 4:56 pm }

Hi Paul, hope all is well. From talking to my father and his friends (50+) most of them just don’t see the point in social networks. I have spoken to a few people (40+) who do white collar jobs and they have profiles on a few sites (although they rarely update them). As you say, depending on the type of job you do or organisation you are in, social networking/social media could be very useful beyond just profile pages on MyFace (as my dad calls it)

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