Friday, August 7, 2009

Social Media not just for the Kids

It seems the bright young things have finally discovered an application suitable for older Internet users – although I’m not sure the founders of Twitter quite had that in mind when the idea was first scribbled on a notepad way back in 2000.

In New Zealand Twitter has grown from a base of 9,000 users in December last year to 151,000 in the latest June data released by ComScore. The growth in users is no surprise. News of the plane crash on the Hudson broken by tweets from people actually on the flight certainly had the wow factor. Then there was Obama’s presidential campaign, the race between Oprah and Ashton Kucher to see who could be first to gain 1 million followers and the news of Michael Jackson’s collapse - broken by TMZ using Twitter. So the attraction to Twitter is understandable.

What is surprising is the demographic profile of Twitter users. Since March this year, ComScore has reported over half of Twitter users in NZ are aged 35+. And since April this year there has been significant growth in the 55+ age bracket – from none in April to 21,000 in June. And this isn’t just a New Zealand trend.

We’ve seen growth across the entire social networking category in the older age groups. And while they may have only joined a social media network to spy on the kids, it seems they’ve not just crashed the party, they’ve started their own right upstairs and tweeted all their friends an invite.

So why are the older demographics so keen on Twitter? For a start, the technology is simple and easy to understand, and there’s no need to post personal information and family photos for the world to see. Then there’s the content which can actually be quite useful – serious news from reputable sources and industry news and views from key personalities. Indeed, for the majority of users the real value is in the content that can be received, not in the content that can be sent.

Whatever it is, it seems that what is attracting the older audiences is exactly what is repelling the younger ones, and if this is the case Twitter could very well have a goldmine so long as whoever figures out how to monetise it does it well.

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