December 21, 2009 | by Wendy Maynard
[small revisions done on the original article]
There are some companies that target seniors and Baby Boomers, but are still resisting an interactive online presence and participating in social media. They may think, “Well my clients are mostly over 60 so they’re not very tech savvy.” Or, “Social media is for kids. My clients are older – they don’t use that stuff.” However, this is a misperception. While there are still many Baby Boomers and seniors who are not using the Internet as voraciously as Generation Y, the numbers may surprise you.
Individuals 65 and older still make up less than 10 percent of the active Internet universe. However, their numbers are on the rise. In the last five years, the number of seniors actively using the Internet has increased by more than 55 percent, from 11.3 million active users in November 2004 to 17.5 million in November 2009. Among people 65+, the growth of women online in the last five years has outpaced the growth of men by 6 percentage points.
The largest percentage increase in Internet use since 2005 has been in the 70-to-75 age group, according to the Pew Internet and American Life Project. The survey found that 45 percent of that age bracket is online, compared with 26 percent in 2005. Researching health information is the third most popular online activity with the most senior age group, after email and online search.
What’s more, many seniors find social networking exciting and enjoy finding online community. They’re creating their own blogs and, more often, connecting with family and friends by joining Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter.
“Social media are giving seniors a voice, and for a generation that has sometimes felt isolated and overlooked, that’s no small feat,” said Sarah Hoit, chief executive of My Way Village, which designs online social networks for older adults.
The No. 1 online destination for people over 65 in November 2009 was Google Search, with 10.3 million unique visitors. Windows Media Player and Facebook were No. 2 and No. 3, with 8.2 million and 7.9 million visitors, respectively. Interestingly, Facebook, which came in at No. 3, ranked No. 45 just a year ago among sites visited by senior citizens.
The trend has caught the attention of senior-living communities that have begun to introduce social media to residents. People who grew up with vacuum-tube radio sets are now learning how to befriend grandchildren and old classmates on Facebook and Classmates.com.
Retirement communities are also launching their own Facebook pages and posting videos on YouTube to appeal to the Boomer children of current or prospective residents. For example, Edgemere Senior Living has a Facebook page. Fan pages like this often include dozens of photos of recent activities at the communities. Visitors to the page can become “fans” and post comments. There are entire social networking sites devoted just to seniors such as the Over 60 Exchange, as well as dedicated website areas of organizations like the AARP that has added a forum called Online Communities.
Baby Boomers Online
Baby Boomers are a much bigger force on the Web. The research group, eMarketer, estimates that in 2009 Internet users ages 45 to 63 make up 28.8% of the total online population, or 57.4 million users.
A new report from Forrester Research also reveals some information that may be different than you thought: More than 60 percent of those in the Baby Boomer generational group actively consume socially created content like blogs, videos, podcasts, and forums. What’s more, the percentage of those participating is on the rise.
In 2007, the percentage of Boomers consuming social media was 46% for younger Boomers (ages 43 to 52) and 39% for older Boomers (ages 53 to 63). By 2008, those number increased to 67% and 62%, respectively.
The number of Boomers responding to content posted online, as opposed to just passively consuming it, is also going up. For example, the proportion of older Boomers responding to content doubled from 15% in 2007 to 34% in 2008. According to Forrester, this is now a percentage that’s high enough to target this group with a social application.
Here are some relevant statistics from eMarketer that you should know about the baby boomer generation:
- 74% use the Internet at least once a month
- younger Boomers outnumber older Boomers online 35.3 million to 21.4 million
- more Boomer women are Internet users than Boomer men
- 62% of households headed by someone age 50 or older had annual incomes of $75,000 or more, nearly 5% higher than in 2004
- 68% of Baby Boomer women trust online recommendations and rated information they heard in online conversations as credible
What do all of these numbers mean to you and your company? They mean that even if your target audience is Baby Boomers and/or seniors, you cannot ignore Internet marketing. You must ensure that your Web site is keeping pace with the trends, and that you should have a social media strategy in place including a blog and Facebook page, at the very least. And a Twitter and YouTube presence would also be beneficial to reaching your prospects.