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Social Networking Doubles with the 50-plus Set

Broad implications for auto marketing and communications.

by on Aug.27, 2010

Communications will never be the same. The question is what will be significantly different?

We all know that social media use has grown dramatically among younger age groups. However, older users have been especially active during the past year embracing the new networking tools. Social networking use among internet users ages 50 and older nearly doubled—from 22% in April 2009 to 42% in May 2010, according to the latest report from the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

Between April 2009 and May 2010, social networking use among internet users ages 50‐64 grew by 88%–from 25% to 47%. During the same period, use among those ages 65 and older grew 100%–from 13% to 26%. By comparison, social networking use among users ages 18-29 grew by 13%—from 76% to 86%.

The study poses challenges to automotive marketing and communications departments, which historically have relied on mass market advertising and specialist, highly pampered automotive media – some of whom don’t even own a car, relying on car company handouts instead – to raise awareness and purchase consideration of  new vehicles, as well as bolster company reputations. Now, word of mouth via e-mails and electronic posts can praise or pan a new or old model – and trash a company – outside of the once considerable influence of auto companies with traditional media.

“Young adults continue to be the heaviest users of social media, but their growth pales in comparison with recent gains made by older users,” explains Mary Madden, Senior Research Specialist at Pew.