Thursday, August 27, 2009

Social Networks Grow Up

What do we really know about the use of the technology we now take for granted and part of everyday life. Who uses Twitter, Facebook, MySpace, Linkedin, SMS, Blogs and what drives their usage?

An interesting article in the New Your Times raises many questions about the user demographics and use of this new communication world.

New technology often is first adopted by the young and then permeates to the older generations and we assume the young drive adoption of technology. According to comScore, today’s new ‘must do’ service Twitter, has a demographic that consists of only 11% of its users being teenagers. It appears that Twitter may have buck the trend. We have already reported on Ivy Bean who twitters and is 103!

What is becoming evident is that the older generations that are driving the real growth of social networks today. Today teenagers only account for 14% of MySpace and 9% of Facebook and we doubt very many use Linkedin. Forrester Research have issued a report that claims that the use of social networks by people aged 35 to 54 grew 60% in the last year.

So we have to now understand what people use these sites for and how and what they communicate.

Is the drive in older users merely a ‘catch up’ and a need to be hip, or is it driven by wider social aspects such as the need to belong to communities, find kindred spirits and express views? Teenagers tend to be more social and live in school and social communities, often with a wide range of friends and communicate on a one to one basis. However, this is often not the case of older generations who now have the opportunity to connect with others they may have never met otherwise.

One would assume that the older generations would be more concerned about privacy and having their feelings, thoughts openly available to what some may say are total strangers, but a look at many members pages shows a willingness to share and express.

If social networking services are to be part of the publishing marketing mix these demographics and social needs need to be understood and not assumed. What will drive the older audience? What is the key to engage with them? Does it require a tight vertical perspective or interest which will probably demand more than just books, or can it survive on a generalist pitch and book alone? We see the re-emergence of the social network sites BookRabbit and and we ask what is different this time?

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