This is an updated version of an article that was published on June 29, 2015.
A stereotype exists that would have you believe social media is for the young. Certainly when many of today’s most popular social media platforms began, they were geared towards teenagers. After all, Facebook was created on a university campus. But, as is inevitable with all popular technology, that way of thinking is becoming very outdated.
New kids on the block
As the number of social media platforms continues to grow, the dynamics of users on each platform has begun to change drastically. Over the past few years, the youth that once dominated Facebook are abandoning the platform for the newer options, such as Twitter and Instagram. And yet, Facebook remains not only the number one social media site on the internet, but also the fastest growing platform. How can this be? Well, while the younger crowd moves on, older adults have filled their vacancies. This year, more than half of all internet users aged 55 to 65 are on Facebook. Those who were once unsure of such a public sharing network and who were slower to adapt to the social media movement have now embraced it fully.
And boomers’ dominance online goes beyond Facebook. They make up a substantial portion of LinkedIn users and the number of boomers on the “hipper” platforms like Twitter and Instagram has been steadily rising. So why are we seeing this shifting in social media audiences?
The big switch
The cynics out there would have you believe that teens are abandoning Facebook to avoid sharing an online community with their parents. And while there may be some truth to that, it’s more likely that the different generations have varying views of what Facebook has to offer them.
Twitter and Instagram very wisely identified what the younger generation liked about Facebook and focused on those interests while eliminating all the rest. You like updating your status, sharing what’s on your mind, and voicing your opinions for all to hear? Twitter is perfect for you! You like sharing photos of your meals and posting “selfies”? Then you’ll love Instagram!
Similarly, boomers have found what they like about social media and, without wanting to sound too harsh on the younger generations, it’s a much less self-centered view. Boomers have taken the phrase “social media” to heart and used it as a way to truly be social. These are the Facebook users who actually use it as a tool to stay in touch with family and friends, as well as reconnect with old friends they’ve lost touch with. For them, it is a digital social club where they can have conversations with whomever they want at anytime they want. They also love to share, be it pictures of their latest vacation, family news, or an article that interests them.
Fortunately for Facebook, it is the perfect site to meet all these needs and it does it better than any of the competition. In other words, the boomers are the ones who are keeping Facebook relevant. It would be wise for the site to stop looking at what they’re doing wrong with the youngsters, and start focusing on what they’re doing right for the older generations.
Will these trends continue on to other sites? It’s entirely possible, but Facebook seems to offer an all-in-one option for boomers to share and connect. And businesses are starting to notice the trend as well, targeting online boomers for with their marketing.
So don’t despair if you’re the youngsters start abandoning your favourite social media platforms, as it turns out it was meant for you the whole time. Boomers may not have been the first to join, but it’s safe to say they perfected the way it’s used.