May 22, 2012

You’ve Got a Friend Request — from Grandma?

A few weeks ago, I was introduced to Old People Writing on a Restaurant’s Facebook Page, a blog compiling screenshots of members of the older generation leaving posts on different restaurant Facebook brand pages. Scrolling through each page gave me a great laugh, but it also made me wonder if this generation really belongs online. We’ve got Bud posting a photo of his dog to Red Robin’s wall; Ian wishing Steak n’ Shake good luck in college; Sydney posting about the life of Jesus to Quiznos’ wall; Frank asking Jack in the Box to call him; and Debra congratulating Waffle House on a new baby (see below).

My conclusion? The Internet is a powerful tool that everyone should be able to use, and social media outlets are no exception. These folks may not have the hang of it just yet, but the rise of the older generation on social media platforms is undeniable, and it’s an important trend to follow.

Picture 11Picture 31

Booming statistics:

According to Pew Internet, social networking activity among Internet users ages 50 and up has nearly doubled in the past year. Additionally, this same age group is growing faster than the younger generation, with Internet users aged 50-64 growing on social media sites by 88% and users aged 65 and up growing 100%. With stats like these, it’s hard to ignore such a booming and active demographic.


What’s in it for them?

Pew gives us a few reasons as to why social media is so attractive to this age group. First, the older generation finally has the capability to reconnect with past relationships. Back then, it wasn’t as easy to look up and reconnect with a high school friend you made forty years back. Second, chronic disease support is easily attainable. With blogs and discussion threads at their fingertips, folks with similar health issues can reach out for help simply and comfortably. Finally, undeniable generation gaps are being bridged online. This older age group isn’t much different from any other when it comes to social media. They want to keep up with their grandkids like I keep up with my friends and family. LeadingAge online magazine interviewed a few senior citizens about their social media presence to give us a better understanding of their online benefits. Randy Eilts, a director of public relations for a senior living marketing firm, says that he likes to be among the first to see his granddaughter’s prom pictures or photos of his children’s Hawaiian vacation. These are opportunities that weren’t as available just a few years ago.

What does this mean for businesses?

Reaching out to this age group isn’t limited to television, newspaper or radio anymore. Marketers can and should freely jump on the digital bandwagon to get to their not-so-niche market. Older folks are making their appearances on Facebook and Twitter, but there are also social media platforms that cater to them specifically. These sites include Gransnet, a network for grandparents with discussion board covering topics that range from childhood games to difficult daughter-in-laws, and Active Empty Nesters, a site with large font and an emphasis on the joys of being free from the duties of raising a family.

One more for good measure:

The Cheesecake FactorySource: Picture 41

How do your parents or grandparents use social media, and exactly how do you feel about it?

— Jaime Cheng, @Rochambeaux