Social media is gaining a greater foothold in the lives of older Americans.

According to a Pew Internet & American Life Project survey, social networking use among internet users ages 50 and older has nearly doubled from 22% to 42% over the past year. Half (47%) of internet users ages 50-64 and one in four (26%) users age 65 and older use social networking sites.

Most users of social networking tools are between 18 and 29 but this growth in older users shows that different segments of the population are getting involved. As we try to reach different social segments, looking at usage profiles across age groups can help us to better target audiences.

“While email may be falling out of favour with today’s teenagers, older adults still rely on it heavily as an essential tool for their daily communications. Overall, 92% of those ages 50-64 and 89% of those ages 65 and older send or read email and more than half of each group exchanges email messages on a typical day. Online news gathering also ranks highly in the daily media habits of older adults; 76% of internet users ages 50-64 get news online, and 42% do so on a typical day. Among internet users ages 65 and older, 62% look for news online and 34% do so on a typical day.”

While overall interest in social networking is growing amongst older users, this doesn’t necessarily translate into larger percentages using all social networking tools. According to the survey, one in 10 (11%) online adults ages 50-64 and one in 20 (5%) online adults ages 65 and older now say they use Twitter or another service to share updates about themselves or see updates about others.

In order to reach the right people with the right message via social media, it is important to look at what segments of the population are involved in social networking and what online tools are most applicable to their social segment. As the survey tells us, the number of older internet users are getting involved with social networking is growing rapidly but their activities online are still largely dominated by other things. 

@Matthew_Whalley

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