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Top 5: Reasons Social Media is NOT Just for Kids


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When I get a chance to talk with people about social media and government, I often ask: “Are You a Member of Generation C?”

I proceed to explain why I think social networking tools are not just being used by Gen X and Gen Y. Instead, I use the term Gen C to describe “someone of any age who is using online tools with a 2.0 mindset – creative, collaborative and community oriented.” That means you could be 59 and five years away from retirement, but see these tools as the key to connectivity and ongoing productivity. Once members of the audience hear the definition of Gen C, they are saying “yes”…or, at minimum, they want to say ‘yes.’ – regardless of age.

That one stirred up some conversation, to say the least (at 60+ comments later!)! Of course, I’d like to think that a ‘yes’ to the first question leads to a ‘no’ to the second. And there is increasing evidence for the fact that social media is NOT just for kids.
So in the spirit of Steve Ressler’s Top 5 series, here are my five quick reasons why I think social media is not just for kids:
1. Boomers are Flocking to Social Networks: I saw this stat in a GovExec article yesterday, which cites the excellent research being done by our friends at Pew. It states:
“The percentage of Internet users 50 years old and older who say they use social networking tools and sites nearly doubled from 22 percent in April 2009 to 42 percent in May 2010.”
The number of older users are growing – at rates 20 times that of the whippersnappers – and that trend will continue unabated.
2. Folks in their 40s and 50s are adopting Facebook fast: Peter Corbett, GovLoop Government 2.0 Club creator and iStrategy Labs guru, reported this trend 18 months ago when he shared that Facebook users age 35-54 had grown by a rate of 276% last year. Plus, did you see the Time article titled, “Why Facebook is for Old Fogies”? ‘Nuf said.

3. The average age on LinkedIn is 40+: Check out these Quantcast stats for the details, but 3 out of 4 LinkedIn users are over 35 and one-third are over 50 years old.

4. Gen Y ain’t that into Twitter: The Participatory Marketing Network conducted a study of Millennials last year and found that Millennials (aka Gen Y) just aren’t that into Twitter as only 22% of that market segment had adopted the tool. Granted, that number may have grown in the past year, but I’ve seen other studies which indicate that 90% of tweeps are over the age of 35.

5. GovLoop is a testament to intergenerational awesomeness. Just look around this community! It’s incredibly diverse in terms of age. And we aren’t afraid to talk about it – see here and here for examples of robust conversations and expert opinions.
So what do you think? Is all this talk about Gen Y and Gen X and social networks ignoring the fact that these online collaboration tools are being used by everyone from the teeny boppers loving them some Justin Beiber to octogenarians connecting with other cool cats in AARP’s online community?
Curious to hear your ideas, Gen C!

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Henry Brown

Suspect a relatively important reason might be that most people want to be able to communicate with ALL their associates using whatever method might be appropriate for the communicators and the specific situation

Stephen Peteritas

Honestly this is my opinion if you take away time spent on farmville or mafia wars and other such games and then run the numbers on the demographics or correlation with time on site and pageviews I think you would get a whole different set of user data that reflected an older and more refined audience.

Basically what I’m hypothesizing here (and it could be so wrong) is that the older person is more likely to spend the time on the actual “social” part of social media.

Trisha Castranio

Stephen’s point about farmville etc is true and validated by the notion that fewer Gen Ys use twitter. I use twitter and keep a low number of people to follow and still have trouble reading all the comments. If you are following 60k people you are prob not reading all the comments or ‘listening.’ Some people follow just to be followed and when you don’t they stop following you. For those it is a game of numbers and not social media. I think some consider twitter and facebook their own reality TV show. We are their audience. I prefer to follow people with like interests and objectives rather than those tweeting about their dinner plans.

I also recently read an article about how they use GPS apps like foursquare to communicate where political rallies and events are held to a large audience simultaneously that they might have otherwise missed. Cool! So yes they are ignoring the Gen Cs who are using them as useful communication tools.

Russell Caldarone

Great article! I work with a lot of Gen Y’s..I’m suprised how many Y’s do not use the main stream social media site’s (i.e., Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook, and Foursquare). It seems like their #1 tool is IM.