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.
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.