Baby Boomers and Social Networking - eMarketer

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Baby Boomers and Social Networking

Facebook took the college scene by storm. Boomers may be another story.

June 10, 2008

Less than one-quarter of US Internet users ages 40 and over use social networking Websites, according to the JWT BOOM/ThirdAge "Boomers, Healthcare and Interactive Media" study conducted last month.

US Internet Users Ages 40+ Who Use Social Networking Sites, May 2008 (% of respondents)

The JWT BOOM/Third Age figures on social networking usage by those 40 and older generally agree with a study by ExactTarget conducted last month.

Instead of using one large category of older Internet users, ExactTarget divided users who were ages 35 and older into 10-year increments, with 65 and over being the oldest cohort. Although 39% of 35 to 44 year-olds used social networks, use fell sharply with age: Only 13% of 55 to 64 year-olds were social networkers, and only 4% of those ages 65 and older. In comparison, three-quarters of Internet users ages 15 to 24 use social networking sites.

Select Online and Mobile Activities of US Internet Users*, by Age, February 2008 (% of respondents in each group)

The disparity is a potential loss for marketers, because boomers use word-of-mouth as much as younger age groups. Again, according to the JWT BOOM/ThirdAge study of US Internet users ages 40 and over:

  • Over three-quarters of respondents received promotional e-mails about products and services and then clicked through to the site being promoted.
  • More than 55% purchased a product or service promoted in an e-mail
  • A full 93% of respondents read an article about a Website in print (e.g., newspaper or magazine) and later visited the site.
  • 83% visited a Website after seeing an advertisement for the site in a newspaper or print magazine.

Why don't consumers 40 and older use MySpace and similar sites in greater numbers? Respondents said their main concerns were privacy, time and just not seeing the point. Although each of these barriers can be addressed, marketers might also consider that social networks are just not yet the best way to reach boomers.

Social networks will likely work to attract more people in this age group for a basic reason. On average, baby boomers have the most discretionary income of any segment of the US population, according to The Conference Board.

US Households with Discretionary Income, by Generation of Head of Household, 2006

The eMarketer Word-of-Mouth Marketing report will be published in July 2008. Click here to be notified when it is released.


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