Over the past few years, social networking has been treated by younger generations as the best invention since the video game. But a recent trend shows that the older generations are following the hype by joining Facebook themselves.
According to Ken Burbary, a professional web marketer and technologist, over 14 million Facebook users in the U.S. are ages 13-17, while over 10 million Facebook users in the U.S. are ages 55-64. Those numbers show that seniors aren’t that far behind the youngsters in terms of Facebook activity. Females, who represent over 50 percent of the Facebook population, outrank males in every age category. Middle-aged women, in particular, were reported to be the fastest-growing segment on the social networking site in 2009 and their numbers are still growing. So what’s attracting middle-aged women to Facebook?
“Women tend to be more social by nature and tend to make more buying decisions,” says Amy Jantzer, social media consultant and co-founder of weedott, a social marketing consulting company in Orlando. She said that women tend to scout for deals and coupons online and generally want to get their friends’ opinions on what to buy.
Erik Folgate, a social media and Google apps expert, says that family ties are also a driving force for older women to join Facebook.
“Their children and grandchildren are attracting them to Facebook. These middle-aged moms are nosey, and they want to see what their kids are doing on Facebook,” Folgate says via email. “They also know that it’s a much easier way for them to stay in touch with children that are now out of the house and having children. Every grandmother wants to get updates on their grandchildren, and Facebook is an easy way for them to view photos and videos of them.”
It can also be a source of nostalgia for those who are looking to reconnect with old high school friends, says Joel Goldstein, an internet marketing expert.
As for the future, Jantzer expects that this trend will fuel more older people to join Facebook. “If they don’t, they’re going to be left behind,” Jantzer said. “The younger generation – that’s just how they communicate.”
To keep up with the younger generation, many local seniors are taking classes on social media. The Orange County Library System (OCLS) offers a class called Facebook, Twitter and More, which teaches students the basics of social media and how to set up accounts on social networking sites. The class started in 2009 when many seniors started asking questions about Facebook and Twitter.
“We didn’t anticipate seniors being that interested [in social networking], says Tony Orengo, instructional technology specialist for OCLS. “I think they’re attracted to Facebook for what it is – a way connect with family members and even old friends.”
Orengo adds that about half of the adult version of the class is usually filled with seniors, and of course, females.
The class is offered in a majority of the 15 OCLS branches. The classes are free for Orange County residents with a library card in good standing.
Article by Marisa Ramiccio