Step Away From The Computer, Kids: Baby Boomers Embrace Social Media

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MediaPost Publications

Advertisers may see the Web and all its iterations–from online video to casual games and social networking–as an ideal channel for reaching young adult consumer, but new data from the AARP and the Center for the Digital Future at the USC Annenberg School for Communication shows that Americans over age 50 are also Web 2.0 denizens. And sometimes they even use the Web more than their younger, more tech-savvy counterparts.

For example, 42% of consumers over 50 check the Web for news daily or several times a day, compared to just 18% of users under 20. And older Americans are increasingly using the Web for fun and interaction. When it comes to social media, some 70% of consumers age 50 and up said that their online community was “very” or “extremely” important to them. So much so that almost 70% of them log on daily or several times a day. In contrast, just about half of all social network members under age 20 said the same.

For the AARP, the stats come as no surprise, as the organization made social media features a prime component of its site redesign in February. Photo and video sharing, live journaling and commenting on articles are activities that have caught on with the site’s 2.7 million unique monthly visitors, said Patricia Lippe Davis, associate publisher, marketing at AARP.

“Baby boomers are the most socially educated population ever,” said Davis, a self-defined Boomer. “They may read the paper, or even go on the Web to get their information, but they’re constantly networking with people to verify and expand their knowledge, and that’s something we’re seeing reflected in their activity on our site.” The benefits of older consumers’ increased use of social media definitely extend to advertisers, Davis said. Finding a site like AARP.org or BoomJ.com helps to answer the questions of “how to communicate the message and how to get it to extend to word-of-mouth,” she said.

For example RoC (a skincare brand under Johnson & Johnson), sponsored the AARP’s Faces of 50+ Real People Model Search in 2007. Members were invited to submit a photo and essay for a chance to be featured in a fashion/beauty spread in the AARP magazine. Some 10,000 of the 13,000 total entries came in online. After the editors chose 16 finalists, the community got to vote and more than 34,000 members voted online.

Davis said that advertisers in the travel, health and real estate categories had shown particular interest in developing hybrid campaigns that featured online, print, and sometimes even TV and special-event components. “About 70% of our advertisers are requesting integrated packages,” she said. “They want online and print at a minimum, then events and then broadcast. They understand that the Web has become a very important channel for reaching people over 50, and Baby Boomers in particular.”

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