Forrester Research finds that more than four in five U.S. adults online use social media at least once a month, with half engaging with friends, family, colleagues and strangers via social network sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, Digg and Reddit. Among those who embrace social media tools, adults age 35 to 54 boosted their participation by more than 50 percent, with more than half of adults age 35 to 44 now in social networks.
The belief that social networks are limited to teenagers is looking increasingly misguided.
More than four in five U.S. adults online use social media at least once a
month, with half engaging with friends, family, colleagues and strangers via
social network sites such as Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter.
Forrester Research surveyed 4,766 U.S.-residing individuals ages 18 to 88 in
May and concluded that while young people are still consuming social media in
great numbers, the most rapid growth is seen among users aged 35 or older.
Forrester analyst Sean Corcoran broke social media consumers down into six
groups for his report. Forrester analyst Josh Bernoff, co-author of the 2008
social media book "Groundswell: Winning in a World Transformed by Social
Technologies," posted graphs from the report showing the growth spurts in
social media use from 2007 to 2009 on his blog here.
Joiners, the group made up of people who use social networks, continued to
be the fastest-growing category, vaulting from 35 percent of those surveyed in
2008 to 51 percent in 2009. The creator group, which includes those who write
blogs, upload videos to YouTube or publish on Twitter, accounted for 24 percent
of the adults surveyed, a modest growth of 3 percent from 2008.
Collectors, or those who categorize Web content via RSS feeds, tags, Twitter,
Facebook, and voting sites like Digg and Reddit, grew slightly, from 19 percent
in 2008 to 21 percent in 2009. Three in four online Americans now consume
social content, falling into the spectator group by watching user-generated
videos or reading blogs.
Curiously, Corcoran said the critic group remained static in 2009. He
speculated this is because those posting reviews and commenting are doing so in
major social networks like Facebook and Twitter instead of in online discussion
forums. Finally, the number of inactives, or those who don't use social tools
at all dropped; only 18 percent of online adults in the United States claimed
they don't use social tools, down from 25 percent in 2008.
Among those who do embrace social media tools, adults age 35 to 54 boosted
their participation by more than 50 percent, with more than half of adults ages
35 to 44 now in social networks. Fifty-four percent of those age 35 to 44 said
they have joined a social network, compared with only 33 percent a year ago.
Thirty-eight percent of adults age 45 to 54 said they now regularly use social
networks, up from 24 percent in 2008.
Moreover, users age 35 to 54 also boosted their creator activities; one in
five of these users produce some form of social content.
While the Forrester study doesn't address enterprise use, it's logical to
conclude adults in the knowledge worker category are using social networks
during work hours, probably even for work. An Aug. 4 from Nielsen Norman Group found
that the younger front-line
workers are leading this adoption.
Members of this group are typically 20-somethings just out of college, who may
have been using social tools for four or five years. Such workers are familiar
with social networks such as MySpace and Facebook and may have hosted their own
blogs through Blogger, Movable Type, WordPress or some other platform. Twitter
has turned into quite the tool for sales professionals and marketers, who are
also frequently inspired to set up Facebook pages to spread their message.
Indeed, Corcoran said interactive marketers must create social applications
even if their audience is mature.
"Social media can no longer be dismissed as a quirky habit of young
adults," Corcoran wrote. "Nearly all online adults now participate
socially, including those in their 40s and 50s. After analyzing how your
customers engage, we recommend crafting your brand's social entrance quickly;
hesitating will force you to chase competitors who've already launched their
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