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Facebook Audience Matures

Acting like kids

February 25, 2009

The faces on Facebook are looking older these days.

Inside Facebook, an independent blog that reports on the Facebook platform, found that 45% of the social network’s US users are ages 26 and older, and nearly 25% are over age 34.

In fact, women ages 55 and older are the fastest-growing demographic group on Facebook, with membership numbers up 175.3% since the end of September 2008. The number of males in that age group grew 137.8% in the same period.

Are older adults using Facebook and other social networks differently from the 20-somethings who have been on the site since their college days?

For one thing, they don’t visit as often.

The JPMorgan “2008 Consumer Survey” found that 45% of social network users ages 34 to 49 logged in one to four times per month.

US Social Network Users, by Age and Frequency, November 2008 (% of respondents in each group)

Although 5% of social network users ages 50 and older logged in 30 or more times per month, the vast majority (73%) also signed on only one to four times monthly.

The Pew Internet & American Life Project “Tracking Survey” found that 89% of adult users logged on to social networks to stay in touch with friends, 57% to make plans with friends and 49% to make new friends—“friends” being the overriding theme.

Despite the popularity of LinkedIn among adults, only 28% of Pew respondents said they used social networks to make new business or professional contacts or to promote themselves and their work.

Overall, adults tend to use social networks for personal reasons—much the same as younger users.

“Older adult users bring purchasing power to Facebook, which is a draw for advertisers,” said Debra Aho Williamson, senior analyst at eMarketer. “So it behooves the social networks to keep bringing them in.”

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