We have a really great tradition in our neighborhood. For the past 41 years, men’s caroling has consumed the evening of December 23rd, with a roving band of about 25 men going from house to house, singing songs to smiling families and little kids in their pajamas, all in exchange for cookies and beverages.
At many houses, we’re invited in, filling living rooms with songs. Because we arrive unexpectedly, we get an impromptu glimpse into the lives of our neighbors. And one of the most memorable things from this year’s rounds was how many of our neighbors — some older than me, some younger — were on Facebook when we rang the doorbell, their profile pages left open while we sang.
A recent study from eMarketer finds that our neighborhood is probably pretty typical. In fact, use of social media by Baby Boomers has increased dramatically recently (up from 31% in 2008 to 46% in 2009), with Facebook leading the way. Why? Well, it’s a great way to share photos, stay in-touch, and feel connected, and since we’re living longer and have more years to fill, social networking is occupying that increasingly large space in our lives.
There are interesting wrinkles to the study (no pun intended):
- MySpace is more popular with younger cohorts, but is losing ground with the youngest cohort (defined in the study as “Generation Z,” which raises the question, “What generation comes next?”). This suggests that MySpace might have peaked.
- LinkedIn is marginal among all groups.
- Twitter is small but mighty — it’s used by more people than LinkedIn, which surprised me.
I didn’t spend the $695 to view the full report, but Mitch Joel also commented on it, adding:
- The percentage of boomer blog readers or writers registers in just the single digits.
- Although 49% of boomers said a purchase decision was influenced by an online review or recommendation on a retailer’s site, just 9% said their shopping behavior was influenced by something they saw on a blog or online community.
- For most boomers, being in constant contact is a personal choice, not one dictated by technology.
The “personal choice” aspect may be the most interesting one of all, indicating to me that social media is truly social, and adopted as a way to stay connected as children, friends, and family pursue myriad activities. How this bears on professional social networks deserves some thought. After all, if there isn’t a compelling social aspect, will “personal choice” be sufficient? How does the value equation of social information need to change to drive professional adoption?