Senior Citizens and Social Media – Are Seniors Using Facebook?

We naturally think of social media as the province of the young and hip. Our stereotypical image of a new-media-savvy person is young, spectacled, and nerdy, clad in sneakers and T-shirt, with a tattoo or three and an occasional piercing, slurping Red Bulls and munching junk snacks while hiding his lingering acne. Older people, we assume, lack the technological awareness and sophistication necessary to use social media and, their neural circuits having fossilized in the electronic Stone Age, and their ability to learn new tricks suffering from the drawbacks proverbially applying to old dogs. According to an article in MediaBadger, we would in many cases and ways be wrong, and those wanting to market to seniors should not ignore social media.

Here are some of the findings from the study:

  • The first users of the Internet back in the 1990s were in their 40s and older. That’s primarily because the cost of computers in those days was much higher than it is today, and there were no portable options, so older people with higher and more stable incomes were the ones likely to be using it. Those same early Internet users have graduated to social media as they have emerged into being.
  • The reasons why seniors (or “silver surfers” as the study quaintly terms them) engage in social media may be slightly different than for younger users. The biggest single reason is to stay in touch with friends and family, followed by pursuit of hobbies, with services, vacationing, and shopping filling the next three categories. Seniors still tend to be less trusting than younger people of online shopping and banking.
  • A study of which social media outlets are used by age group shows that seniors are more likely to use Facebook, on-line forums, and photo sharing services than they are other outlets. Seniors are less likely than younger people to post videos on YouTube and similar outlets, but quite likely to view on-line videos.
  • Seniors are late adopters of changing social media and less likely than younger people to learn new media that are difficult or complex. They quickly develop habits of use (or already have them by now) and are resistant to change. They love to comment online about current events, politics, or most other subjects and tend to have strong opinions. Then tend to prefer simple and easy to learn tools that interface easily with services and methods they are already used to using.

There are, in short, many differences between older social media users and younger ones. Just the same, this is not a demographic that Facebook marketers should ignore, nor are social media something that should be ignored by companies that routinely serve an older clientele.

While seniors are becoming more internet savvy, they are still at risk for online scams.  If you are a senior citizen or have a family member who is, a background check for all new friend requests may be a good idea.