Baby Boomers, Social Networking and Competitive Advantage

by 04g7F1nl02 on May 26, 2009 · 3 comments

in Web 2.0

This year we have seen amazing growth in Internet use by adults, with 45+ category gaining more and more attention and pulling more weight with web advertising and investment overall. Last week Danah Boyd posted about Facebook being for Old people, and more and more stats show how internet, and especially social media is being used by Boomers, especially fo networking and community purposes.

Some key facts from Pew Internet show amazing growth:

  • 2008 – today 36% of internet users are boomers (as oppose to 0% in 2000)
  • 2008 – 35% of boomers are online several times a day
  • 2008 – sharing videos and reading blogs seems like the strongest web 2.0 activity among boomers

All these show a great trend, and I was looking for some real inside info. 5 months ago I ran across the rare opportunity to meet an extraordinary man by the name of Carlos Hernandez, who made it his goal to educate, train and teach Social Media to the masses, especially to Baby Boomers. Following his presentation in CES09 (Social Media Jungle sessions) I asked Carlos about Boomers and Social Media. I was curious about why would Boomers find Social Media useful as well as what deters this group from using it; how does one explain the sudden surge and rise in Social Networking use with Boomers, one we have not witnessed in past years, and what are the main trends in it? Carlos and I exchanged a few emails a while back and now I finally have the opportunity to share them with you. there are some great pearls there:

“Suffice to say, the good news about being a Baby Boomer… is that we have the benefit of a built-up knowledge base and oodles of lessons learned. Alas, it can also be our down-fall, if we get so full of ourselves, i.e. hubris, that we ignore seeing our blind-spots and then wonder why we lose our jobs and less expensive, younger people seem to be our biggest competitors in the job search.”

“Social media, and in particular LInkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are potential game-changers for us, because they allow one to be less of a stuffed shirt, without dumping the experience of walking the corporate halls. How? I find these powerful tools to be just the communication mode that opens the door to be more human. The ability to post a picture, list groups where we participate¬† (volunteer and professional) plus encourage asking and answering questions which opens windows for one to be heard and seen.”

Carlos also shared this valuable link:¬† “Doctors, engineers, lawyers and any of many other classic professionals now have the avenue to sound less like a boiler-plate-laden resume. Liz Ryan, San Francisco Chronicle writer and 25-year HR veteran voiced the following in her recent article titled “The Savvy Networker: Eight Little Known Tricks for the Job Hunt”.¬† “Yank the boilerplate out of your resume and give it a human voice, replacing the “results-orientated professional” with “I’m happiest solving thorny problems that slow down product development” or whatever (human) statement describes you”. And that to me so accurately reflects the spirit of Social Media – the personality and personal connections that enhance and boost our personal and professional lives.

Together with Carlos, Barbara Rozgonyi has written a a great post that list great sources to show why social media is spreading like fire among baby boomers. Highly recommended for more reading on the subject.

Boomers are key participants for a fruitful web, and web is key for boomers. Despite and because of the above all numbers, links, quotes and proofs, I am still constantly thinking: how does one demonstrates the value of social media to ones still not buying into it? how does one converts offline behavior to online behavior, to break the wall that sometimes is to be found between boomers and social media and most importantly – what happened in 2008 to have caused such a jump in percentage of boomers participating in social media and how can we leverage on that?

UPDATE 06-04-09: The numbers quoted from Pew Internet research are incorrect, here are the correct numbers:

  • 2008 – today 36% of internet users are boomers (as oppose to 28% in 2000)
  • 0% relates to the number of Boomers connected to the internet via wireless in 2000. Number in 2008: 43%
  • 2008 – 35% of boomers are online several times a day
  • 2008 – sharing videos and reading blogs seems like the strongest web 2.0 activity among boomers

Thanks for bringing this to my attention.

{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

Alin Wagner-Lahmy wrote onJune 4, 2009 at 11:54 am

Thanks Randy, you are right: 0% refers to the number of Boomers who were not connected wirelessly rather than not present at all. Thanks for highlighting this. I will make sure to add an amendment to the post. Your next point raises an interesting discussion on the definition of ‘online behavior’ and what constitutes of a mark of change in media consumption. Sharing videos, whether in a participatory or passive format, is a clear mark of web 2.0 online behavior. The slide doesn’t indicate specifically the type of activity related to the site, which can be broken down to uploading, viewing, commenting, marking as favorite, emailing video to friends and family, etc, the fact a user is going to a video site to watch content, rather than opt for ‘traditional channels’ such as TV, is an indication of overall preference of online media, of media consumption behavioral change. Same goes for blogs – reading is not same as contributing as a writer – the amazing fact is that people give validity to non-traditional means of reporting. Will be interesting to see numbers of blog readers vs. newspaper readers in 2000 vs. 2008, and out of that, what is the percentage of ‘formal’ channels blogs vs. personal blogs.

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Hayle wrote onJune 26, 2011 at 6:55 pm

I can’t believe I’ve been going for years without knwonig that.

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Randy Steer wrote onJune 2, 2009 at 11:14 am

The statistics cited from the Pew Internet presentation about Internet use are incorrect . The blog post says that 36% of Internet users are Boomers, vs. 0% in 2000. The way the third statistic is cited (“sharing videos and reading blogs”) is a bit misleading. The presentation shows two relevant sets of numbers: 1. Percentage of Boomers who use the Internet: 2000 – 40% 2008 – 74% 2. Percentage of Internet users who are Boomers: 2000 – 28% (Not 0% as the article above states) 2008 – 36% The video-sharing data in the presentation refers to *visiting* video-sharing sites (i.e. YouTube). The vast majority of YouTube visitors VIEW videos but don’t post them — saying that “sharing videos” is the Boomers’ number-one social-media activity is likely to be interpreted by many readers as POSTING videos.

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