Old Dog Learning New Tricks

Image by Diego Lorenzo F. Jose on Flickr, who includes this description:

Who says an old dog can’t learn new tricks?

My dad just turned 60 and is newly retired. I got him an Ipod Touch to play with 🙂

Diego’s father isn’t alone in his newfound tech habits.

A new study from The Pew Internet & American Life Project reports that older Americans (age 50+) are adopting social media in growing numbers.  Among the report’s findings:

  • Social networking use among internet users ages 50 and older nearly doubled—from 22% in April 2009 to 42% in May 2010.
  • One in five (20%) online adults ages 50-64 say they use social networking sites on a typical day, up from 10% one year ago.
  • One in ten internet users aged 50+ now say they use Twitter or another service to share updates about themselves or see updates about others.

Increased social media use among a wider demographic is obviously a good thing.  But it also creates additional questions for any company that uses these tools to communicate with its customers.

For example:

  • Are you actively engaging customers of all ages on your social networks?
  • Does your messaging change depending on your intended demographic?
  • Is your website — or your Facebook fan page — intuitive for all ages?
  • Does your social media strategy include a mature perspective?

And while these may seem like new challenges, this isn’t a new conversation.

Ten years ago, the exact same spike in general web adoption among seniors and baby boomers had marketers scrambling to connect with this “new, non-traditional” audience.  And sites like ThirdAge have been providing baby boomers with topical insights for over a decade.

Thus far, social media has been considered a youth movement.  With this growing number of mature voices and viewpoints, the gender gap is being closed — and this is a welcome opportunity for brands to reconnect with an audience they may not have expected to be paying such close attention.

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