Baby Boomers and Social Networks: What Charities Need to Know

 Almost half of all mobile customers in Australia use an Internet-connected device. Flickr Image: Some rights reserved by Johan Larsson 

As baby-boomers join social networks, the percentage of American adults using social networking sites has passed 50% for the first time, highlighting the importance for Australian Not for Profits to have a presence on social networks.

The figures come from the latest Pew Internet report, which says that a among adult Internet users the percentage is even higher, with 65% of adult American Internet users saying they use a social networking site.

The report says the pace with which new users have flocked to social networking sites is staggering - more than double the amount of adults are using social networking sites compared to 2008 (29%), and when PEW first asked about social networking in 2005, only 5% of all adults said they used them.

According to the Pew report, it is baby boomers – an important demographic for Not for Profit organisations in regards to fundraising and volunteer recruitment – that are driving the growth.

The report says the frequency of social networking site usage among young adult Internet users under age 30 was stable over the last year – 61% of online Americans in that age cohort now use social networking sites on a typical day, compared with 60% one year ago.

However, among the Boomer-aged segment of Internet users aged 50-64, social networking site usage on a typical day grew a significant 60% (from 20% to 32%).

Mary Madden, PEW Senior Research Specialist and report co-author, says the graying of social networking sites continues, but the oldest users are still far less likely to be making regular use of these tools.

Madden says while seniors are testing the waters, many Baby Boomers are beginning to make a trip to the social media pool part of their daily routine.

The report shows that social networks are no longer the sole domain of tech-savy teens, and as social media use becomes more widespread across different age-groups, its value as a communications tool for Not for Profit organisations grows with it.

The report also found that there are no significant differences in use of social networking sites based on race and ethnicity, household income, education level, or whether the Internet user lives in an urban, suburban, or rural environment.

In Australia, the growth of smartphone use means that people have more access to their social networks than before.

A recent Nielsen survey commissioned by Telstra found that almost half (46%) of all mobile customers in Australia use an Internet-connected device – up 31% on last year.

The survey also found that the perception that smartphones are just for young people is wrong, with 23% of smartphone users aged over 50 and 39% are aged over 40.

Forty percent of smartphone users in Australia access social networking sites every day on their phone, and half of smartphone users access Facebook on their smartphones more often than on their PC’s.

Telstra Consumer Executive Director Rebekah O'Flaherty, says it’s clear smartphones are becoming an inseparable part of peoples lives, with Telstra’s research indicating they now help people to shop smarter and connect with our social networks.

The PEW report is based on a survey undertaken in April and May 2011 of 2,277 adults.

For more information, or to download a copy of the PEW report, click here.

To view the Telstra report, click here.

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