The fastest growing age group on Facebook also still gets the newspaper

Okay, so we’ve all heard that the fastest growing age group on Facebook is the 55+ set. If you haven’t, you’re out of the loop and you should probably make some time to see us on tour at one of our presentations. The intriguing part is how shockingly fast it is happening. See the chart below:

In the first six months of this year, the number of Facebook users who are 55+ has grown 513.7%


According to iStrategyLabs, in the first six months of this year, the number of Facebook users age 55 or over has grown a whopping 513.7% — that is up from 950,000 in January to 5.9 million as of the first of this month. Maybe you should read those numbers again. It’s unbelievable. Two years ago no one would have suspected that a social meida site like Facebook would have been able to generate these statistics. Now please don’t misunderstand this phenomenon. Users of all age groups are growing and Facebook already has far more members than some countries.

Is Facebook graying — or worse, going out of style?

Why aren’t more young people, especially the 18-24 year-olds rushing to set up new accounts on Facebook? Furthermore, why does iStrategyLabs report that the number of college and high school students has dropped 20%. Wait… What? Are kids flocking away from Facebook in droves? Well, probably not. BusinessWeek suggests that there may be an error in this part of iStrategyLabs’ data, and I tend to agree. Because iStrategyLabs took the data from people’s profiles (and did not conduct a survey) right after graduation season, the drop likely notes people removing their school affiliations but not incoming freshmen updating. This, along with new privacy settings and the fact that Facebook is phasing out Networks, may help to better explain the data.

In any any case, I’m more interested in the age groups. Maybe the answer is something more simple: maybe 18-24 year olds don’t want their parents keeping track of their lives online and are setting more strict privacy settings — or maybe they’re just staying off the grid entirely. Either way, nothing is forever and the numbers do state something profound is happening.

Why do Boomers have such a large impact on social media?

Boomers affect everything. Facebook is all about making connections with people with whom you’ve lost touch. And what age group has lost touch with more people than the 55+ community? Add that together with the echo from major news outlets, talk radio stations and grandchildren all working hard to explain the concept of social networking — and a user base that is much more savvy about computers than some give credit for, and you’ve got a rising powerful chemical reaction.

Let’s consider one of our clients, Del Webb, a housing and community developer that focuses on adults over 55. One of their main selling points is the fact that they offer so many activities. Their residents aren’t signing up for those activities on a clipboard or corkboard. They’re logging on to their very robust intranet. Boomers are wired.

What does this mean for your marketing strategy?

This data suggests that Boomers are merely playing catchup. Younger people are indeed on Facebook; nobody is leaving and their numbers are steadily rising. Personally, I don’t know many people who aren’t on Facebook. It has almost gotten to the point where I wonder what is wrong with someone if they don’t have or use a Facebook account. It is akin to not having e-mail or a wireless phone.

This exciting new data also opens up some great new opportunities for those who need to market to adults over 55. If you have a product or service that targets older adults you should definitlely include social media with your current adveritising mix. Basically, it means that for marketing purposes, you can now reach just about anyone with Facebook. And that is a beautiful thing.

One Comment

  1. Morgan
    July 15, 2009

    Facebook is such a great way to communicate with family and friends. It’s no wonder why so many people are on there, including people over 55. Like you said, the group over 55 is just realizing how great this tool is and are just now taking advantage of it. I do believe, however, that the idea of Facebook and how it helps you communicate with others is so new and exciting to the older crowd because nothing like this has ever existed until recent years. The younger group, 0-24 year olds might not be AS impressed with the technology since photo sharing, texting, etc is just a part of their every day lives and always has been. It doesn’t mean that they won’t use it, it just means that they aren’t as excited about it as someone who is older.

    Also, you make a good point when you say that someone their age might not want mom and dad checking up on them all the time. I think the “coolness” factor of Facebook definitely went downhill once their parents got on there. I feel that maybe when they get older their views on it will change and they will want to share more with their family and come back to using Facebook, or whatever might be invented in the future, to do so.