It should come as no surprise that Boomers are joining social networks in a big way. I’ve been noticing this anecdotally for some time. But now we have survey statistics, thanks to a new study by Accenture (via Steve Rubel).
The study reveals that Boomers are the fastest-growing users of social networking sites and they’re starting to do more blog reading, too. The study also finds that Millennials’ use of social media has plateaued.
The One Big Thing you need to know this week is not whether but why Boomers are adopting social media so voraciously.
Accenture attributes the rise in usage to younger Boomers’ concern that they’ll be working longer than they thought before retiring while Boomers of all ages are using social networks to keep in touch with their children and grandchildren.
They also surmise that Millennials are simply satiated with consumer technology.
I think they got the first part right. The economy is driving adoption among all generations as people realize the power of social media for employment networking use. And Boomers in particular are joining social networks to keep in touch with their children or grandchildren who are either in college or the workforce.
Because of the very nature in which people share content within social networking sites, Boomers will inevitably be exposed to much more “social” content than heretofore. They see the Facebook and Flickr photos, the YouTube videos, and the blog posts that show up in their friends feeds, thereby getting exposed to much more social content.
Once exposed to social media, you tend to consume more of it. That would explain the increased blog readership.
Boomers’ two most popular activities within social media are 1) simply observing what goes on there, which most of them will do and 2) commenting on content, which about a third of them will do, according to Forrester Research.
Why is this important? Boomers were previously primarily only accessible online through search and email.
As for the Millennials, though, I think the the same thing that is driving Boomer adoption explains Millennials’ levelling off of social media use: College. About half of the Millennial generation is of college age or older.
While Millennials are already far more likely than Boomers to use social media and consumer technology, they simply don’t have as much time as they used to to play with their technology tools than they used to.