Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
January 30, 2010 2:39 PM

Baby Boomers Love Facebook (And All Of The Other Online Goodness)

One common misnomer is that Social Media and the Internet is a place for kids, teens and university students exclusively.

Nothing could be further from the truth.

One of the most mind-blowing stats about the Web came out in July of 2009 when it was reported that there are more grandparents than high school students on Facebook. While most people still try to wrap their heads around this very real reality, it looks like baby boomers (person who was born during the demographic Post-World War II baby boom) are taking to the Web, engaging, joining the conversation and taking part in many online communities. That was the news yesterday via eMarketer in the news item, Baby Boomers Get Connected with Social Media.

Here are some of the highlights:

  • 47% of online boomers maintain a profile on at least one social network.
  • Facebook is the favourite social network for boomers.
  • Only 10% of online boomers were Twittering in September 2009.
  • The percentage of boomer blog readers or writers registers in just the single digits.
  • Although 49% of boomers said a purchase decision was influenced by an online review or recommendation on a retailer's site, just 9% said their shopping behavior was influenced by something they saw on a blog or online community.
  • For most boomers, being in constant contact is a personal choice, not one dictated by technology.

It's moving slowly, but it is moving. Here's the bottom line:

"Creating and renewing personal connections online is the biggest draw for boomers... Their contacts include family, friends and co-workers of all ages," according to the report, Boomers And Social Media ($695 USD) available via eMarketer. This demographic is still in the nascent phase of adoption, but the early numbers are encouraging and as the technology (this includes hardware, software and platforms) increase in ease of use, it is anticipated that these numbers will, obviously, improve as well.

Now, go out and friend your grandparent, will ya?

By Mitch Joel


Comments Comments Feed
  • Posted by Alex Ikonn
    Mitch Joel

    This is exactly why ipad will be a hot product with boomers :)

    Reply
  • Posted by Kyle McGuffin
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch this post was timely, I spent yesterday afternoon checking in on my grandma. She was sharing that some individuals at the Beck taxi company went out of their way to intimidate her by purposely trying to forget a plant she had in her cart and then mentioning that she better not spill it in the cab. My grandmothers network is extremely connected with many famous people. She wanted a forum to share but was concerned about senior abuse. I explained the acceptance of facebook and how it works. She was going to speak to her circle of ladies about sharing on-line. The numbers will continue to grow.

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    I'm a baby boomer. I blog and read blogs. I'm on Facebook and Twitter, I blog and read blogs. My mother is on Facebook.

    Reply
  • Posted by Peter Pallotta
    Mitch Joel

    I'm suprised at the stats because I hang around boomers and hardly anyone I know uses twitter or facebook, it's usually the teenagers who are heavily into texting each other....you can see them everywhere, heads down and fingers typing away.

    What would be interesting to know is how far boomers take this into the future and what will become of these social media sites?

    Do they connect in the real world after discovering each other online?

    Will this replace their telephone?

    Why isn't teleconferencing implemented on facebook?

    Do they feel overloaded with all this stuff? or better yet, do they feel they have to connect in this way simply because other people are doing it?

    Is there room for a boomers only social media site?

    I'd like to hear more about Linda's experience online since she has identified herself as a boomer...

    cheers,

    Reply
  • Posted by Nathan Hangen
    Mitch Joel

    What it takes to be successful is not to use social media or to go viral, but to be a thought leader instead of recycling the same thoughts and processes that everyone else is using. Now is the day and age to be unique, be bold, and take risks. Nothing else will do...and people respect that.

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    I was completely shocked the amount of baby boomers that are on Facebook! (The above article is the most current stats on Facebook and baby boomers).

    But once I got over the initial shock, I counted all the baby boomers that are my Facebook friends. And yes, there are a lot!

    My dad recently started a Facebook account, while my mom has had an account for several years. She has no clue to most computer software but can use Facebook with ease. So it shouldn't be a shock that the older generations can figure out this social networking realm.

    I agree that part of the hype is reuniting with lost friends over the years. But a big push for baby boomers to get on to various social networks is also from their corporations. As a senior vice-president, my dad was advised by one of his direct reports to get into social networking. He first created a twitter account specifically for this reason. And to also check on one of his projects (@energy4everyone).

    He was also advised to monitor what his wife put up on Facebook too. So watch those privacy settings mom.

    Reply
  • ALL people YURN to be part of something BIG, and making a DIFFERENCE in this world, and anyone that does not acknlowedge the 2.0 platform is missing out...

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    Mitch –I’m not surprised by how many baby boomers are using social media. The report you cited confirms statistically what I’ve known to be true anecdotallyl. Many of the boomers that I know are savvy social media users. My parents are LinkedIn, my aunts and uncles are avid Facebookers and my grandma plays bridge online.

    I would be interested in seeing the comparisons of time spent on social media between age groups. How does a university student compare to a retiree in time spent using Facebook? Though 46 per cent of baby boomers have Facebook accounts, what percentage log on weekly? Or daily?

    Reply
  • Posted by Mike Staniforth
    Mitch Joel

    I'm not surprised that the numbers are this high for boomers who utilize Facebook. I would be more shocked to discover high statistics regarding boomers using social media applications like Twitter. The quote Mitch takes from Boomers and Social Media best explains the draw to a application like Facebook over something like Twitter. Typically boomers use Facebook to reconnect and maintain relationships with people they already know as opposed to making new relationships with strangers. I think the reason for boomers not using Twitter as much as Facebook is the absence of reason for frequent updates on their activities. As Mitch states: "being in constant contact is a personal choice, not one dictated by technology."

    Boomers aren't as controlled by social technology as the younger generations.

    Reply
  • Posted by Jade Ng-A-Kien
    Mitch Joel

    The number of baby boomers on Facebook does not necessarily surprise me. I get many friend requests from aunts and uncles, friends of the family, friend’s parents and my dad. When my dad first joined Facebook I took a long time to accept his request because I felt like he was invading my personal online space. Facebook was a place for me to connect with my friends, not my dad. I eventually accepted his request, limiting the information he could see on my profile. I did that not because there is anything incriminating, but because I don’t want to answer any questions relating to what I have on my profile.

    This has me thinking about the original reason for Facebook. Facebook was originally an online community for university and college students in the United States (and a few in Canada). You could not get an account unless you had a college or university email address. That has since changed and Facebook has evolved into the online community it is today.

    I have already gotten over the fact that my dad is on Facebook. I should be happy he is getting acquainted with social media. Luckily he has not overloaded my wall or joined any groups I would not approve of, like other parents. Oh well, at least my dad and I share the joy of Facebook.

    Reply
  • Posted by Hayley Farb
    Mitch Joel

    It amazes me how much facebook has evolved since I first learnt about it. What started out as a social connection for university and college students has expanded more than I could have imagined. While reading Mitch Joel’s blog, I searched through my facebook friends and was blown away by the amount of baby boomers. There was a mixture of family, friends, friends’ parents and even grandparents. It was an initial shock to me, but with social media becoming the trend, it makes a lot of sense. Nostalgia is a strong force in the lives of many. Being able to connect and re-connect with people you haven’t spoken to in a while, is a driving force to jump on the bandwagon. When my mom got facebook, I was appalled. I couldn’t understand why she would need nor want it. She has since been able to connect with people she has not spoken to in years. It is amazing how facebook has the ability to reach out to so many individuals. It is a gift for students to be able to connect with other students and a blessing for the older generations to connect with those they have lost touch with and wish to stay connected to. It will be interesting to see which trends the older generations catch onto next.

    Reply
  • Posted by Zoya McGroarty
    Mitch Joel

    I knew that the number of baby boomers on Facebook was increasing dramatically but I had no idea that there are actually more grandparents than high school students on the website. This may be a result of parents prohibiting their kids from joining Facebook due to the bad press that it has received lately in traditional media. I know quite a few parents who will not let their kids sign up for the website because of the recent coverage of cyberbullying and stalking on Facebook.

    I also wonder if the other forms of social media will catch on with the baby boomers as they become more comfortable with Facebook and creating an online identity. Facebook was the first form of social media that I truly embraced and it is only recently that I started blogging and tweeting. I wonder if the boomers will follow a similar trend?

    Although I agree that "Creating and renewing personal connections online is the biggest draw for boomers...", I also think that there is an interesting trend of baby boomers who are embracing social media in the workplace. I used to work in commercial real estate and the use of social media (including facebook) as a networking tool was encouraged. Networking is obviously essential to success in real estate but I also think that it is interesting that many older agents have started using Facebook and other forms of social media in order to keep up with the younger agents. Here is an interesting article about using social media in real estate:

    http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_qn4182/is_20091120/ai_n42256505/

    Reply
  • Posted by Sayurie Naidoo
    Mitch Joel

    At first I was surprised to see this headline. Baby Boomers Love Facebook? I didn't realize baby boomers even knew what Facebook was! Just kidding.

    After putting in more thought, I realized that this makes sense. Of course baby boomers love Facebook. Facebook is the most accessible way to connect with long lost friends.

    My generation definitely made Facebook popular. For us, it was yet another way to connect to our friends. This is in addition to email, text messages, and phone calls. Facebook gave us a deeper look at our friends lives.

    For many baby boomers, they have lost touch with friends they once had. Families and careers have led to growing apart. It is difficult to reconnect with old friends. However, I have witnessed it happen with my own mother. I have seen her find friends whom she has not spoken to in over 20 years.

    Facebook has found success in allowing people to share their lives with one another. I have witnessed this in my own life and through my favourite baby boomer, my mother.

    Reply
  • Posted by Caitlin McNamee-Lamb
    Mitch Joel

    I was initially shocked by the statistics backing this blog. A whopping 47% of baby boomers are on social networking sites. Even more surprising is that their favourite site is facebook. I then realized what a crucial role facebook plays in my life. I have moved around quite a bit and thanks to facebook I can easily stay in touch with friends from all over the world. Young people like to think that facebook is exclusively our domain. Our parents and grandparents use it for the same reason: to keep in touch. Instead of using classmates.com, boomers can reunite with past friends through facebook and other online networking sites.
    To come to think of it, I am a facebook friend to several baby boomers. My dad, aunts, uncles, cousins and grandparents are posting on my wall these days. The statistics might show numbers rising but I don’t think the younger generations approve. An article in PC World “Are the Baby Boomers Killing Facebook?� http://bit.ly/9UZXm claims that children don’t want their parents checking up on them through facebook.
    What is more interesting is that the presence of baby boomers on facebook actually alters the facebook community and the dynamic of its conversations.
    On another note maybe there should be a distinction between friends and family on facebook. There is now a facebook spoof website www.lamebook.com. It relies on wallposts and comments of the funniest and lamest things found on facebook. The postings are categorized under several headings, one being parents/family.
    I’m not opposed to the boomers taking over facebook but after reading through lamebook I’m not sure it’s such a good idea.

    Reply
  • Posted by Christiaan Rapcewicz
    Christiaan Rapcewicz

    It is interesting how you post that “that there are more grandparents than high school on Facebook�. One of your sources states, “college and high school users have declined in absolute number by 20% and 15%�, which is a shock, however, you have failed to take into consideration that, when Facebook came out in 2005, it was only accessible to university students. Five years later, the reason for the decline isn’t the greater number of baby boomers using Facebook, but those of us who have been on Facebook for the past five years have seen many changes in layout and security that have turned us off from continuing to use it. There are also other forms of social media that have sparked our attention, such as Twitter, and Facebook is slowly fading into the background. The figure “US Internet Users Who Visit Social Networks by Gender & Age, Q2 2008 and Q2 2009 (% of respondents in each group)� identifies that it is not the baby boomers that are keen to using social media, but it is 71.5% (http://bit.ly/azsYMh) of people under the age of 35 who are more apt to using social media outlets. Facebook is just one social media application. You have to look at all social media applications to have an accurate portrayal of what truly is occurring with the decline of youth Facebook users.

    Reply
  • Posted by Catherine Flint
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch - I definitely agree with what you have said. When I had to start my own blog the only person I knew to go to for advice was my father. My mother was the first person to tell me about Twitter. I also have several family members on Facebook.

    I believe that the reason for this isn't simply that boomers are jumping onto the social media bandwagon, but they are finding it a necessity. Boomers have a need to communicate just as all of us do. That part isn't solely a characteristic of the younger generation. Now that social media is becoming easier to use if people aren't familiar with they run the risk of appearing out of date. But that is not all; they could also be missing out on social interaction in a variety of ways. The days of sending mail are over, so baby boomers either have to get with the times or get left behind.

    That being said some argue that by baby boomers joining these social media networks it is leading to their eventual demise. Check out this article for more information: http://www.pcworld.com/article/164522/are_baby_boomers_killing_facebook_and_twitter.html

    Reply
  • Posted by Kelly Duffus
    Kelly Duffus

    Mitch,

    It doesn’t really surprise me that so many baby boomers have an active social media account. Nor does it surprise me that Facebook is the favourite amongst this group. My mother and many of her friends, all in the same age bracket, have Facebook accounts. My gramma has even talked about buying a computer, taking lessons and joining Facebook.

    However, I wonder if boomers are joining for different reasons than college students like myself. My mother, for instance, joined Facebook so that she could look at the albums my sister and I were posting online. I wonder if other baby boomers have joined just to keep tabs on their children or maybe even employees. I would like to know how many are on it for work or to network or just to socialize.

    Reply
  • Mitch Joel

    The most interesting point that you touch on is the way boomers are using this social technology. Boomers are using it primarily to connect with friends and family. It will be interesting to see how marketing endeavours are moulded to reach the different age brackets as the older generation adopts more of the technology. Are boomers simply slower on the uptake, and therefore demonstrating affinity for a trend that teens have moved away from? Or is it a preference to employ user-friendly interfaces as an introduction to the sea of information on the web?
    My mother and father started out with Facebook and then quickly ventured on to Vimeo, LinkedIn, and even Twitter. I think Facebook provides a great entry point, due to its usability and popularity, to exploring other social networks and other utilities.

    Reply
  • Posted by Laura Teed
    Mitch Joel

    Mitch, I think these are excellent comments. I have a more indepth reply here at Country Girl blogs: http://bit.ly/c1KVk9

    Reply
  • Posted by Neil Sareen
    Mitch Joel

    Blog Response – Baby boomers love Facebook (and all that other online goodness)
    Mitch,
    This post is one that I can certainly identify with. I have had a Facebook account since 2005 and I admit, I check it multiple times a day. The ability to stay connected with friends is easier than ever and does not require a phone or letter.

    What surprised me was the percentage of baby boomers that are actively involved in online networking. According to emarketer, 47% of baby boomers are engaged in at least one social media outlet. Although I am not a part of this demographic, I am not surprised when I meet established professionals who have an active Facebook or Twitter account. It is true to believe that baby boomers may not utilize every feature provided on these social networks, however the jump from less than one million users to over six million users aged 55 and over is an astronomical increase.

    On the other side, the amount of users in university/college (18-22) declined by 20%. I was surprised to hear of this, as I thought it would be the opposite. This change can be credited to the users apart of the “baby boom echo� have joined more than one social network, and may decide that they have no use for certain accounts.

    There is information available with specific statistics regarding the age ranges of social media users such as the emarketer report. However, there is no information regarding what motivates people to join a social media network. My personal opinion is that parents join Facebook and Twitter to keep an eye on their child who may be away at university/college, whereas users in my demographic (I am 22 years old) use these outlets to stay connected to friends, network for jobs and to kill time during times of boredom.

    I think it is fantastic that the amount of baby boomers in increasing and shows a willingness to adapt to current times. It will be interesting to see how the baby boom echo responds to online media changes in the years to come.

    Reply
  • Posted by Bessy
    Mitch Joel

    I wonder when we will start seeing Canadian-specific research on this exact topic? Bueller?

    Reply
  • Posted by Robin Browne
    Mitch Joel

    Just a caveat to all us Canadian folks: these are US numbers. For Canadian numbers, I did some Googling and found an article referencing a Forrester Research report that looks pretty good - but costs.
    Anyone know of a free source of Canadian boomer numbers?
    http://bit.ly/cDWLkm

    Reply
  • Posted by Roshni Sall
    Mitch Joel

    I was quite suprised that so many baby boomers are using facebook. Mostly because my parents and some of their friends don't feel safe and are against using the internet and posting their pictures up, after hearing about all the privacy issues. I do see alot of managers in my workplace on facebook, using it to communicate with other employees and for some using it to promote their business. I don't think I personally have anyone on my facebook above the age of 35. My mom had once asked me what facebook was and asked me to open an account for her and I did but she does't use it. She prefers to call her family that live in another province. So I am quite suprised just based on the baby boomers I know that so many are using facebook. I also knew of people who have been fired from using facebook in my workplace from posting comments about the organization. I can see baby boomers using facebook being used to connect people from far.

    Reply
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