Later in the week I shared the conversation with a friend of mine who works for a former-brokerage-firm-turned-bank. This friend of mine stated that investment if social media is not a good use of money because social media is a kid's domain and kids don't have money. Unfortunately I did not have the time or the energy that night to get into an involved conversion/debate about the inaccuracy of his statement. I have to say that this guy IS a smart fellow whose intellect is highly regarded. So how could he make such a faux pas? Or did he?
If you visit Wikipedia for a definition of faux pas you learn that a faux pas is a violation of accepted social rules. The question this brought up was "is it socially acceptable to consider social media a kid's domain despite the contradictory research?" And is the faux pas on my part for believing that this isn't your son's (or daughter's) social media?
Fortunately, answering that question is beyond the scope of this post. However, I thought I would address the issue by providing some research. Given the expanding nature of social media, many many firms are conducting research on social media usage and demographics. I will put one source here. However, I encourage you to list other useful sources of research in the comments sections. I use Quantcast data for this post.
Looking at Quantcast data for October 2, 2009, as illustrated below, only a small cut of users are kids. Total Twitter users between the ages of 3 to 17 amount to a mere 10% of users. The next age group, the 18 to 34 year olds, amount to a more significant 43% of Twitter users. However, those 35 years old and older come in at 47% of all users!
Now let's look at Facebook. While the numbers are not as strong from the "old guy" (gal) perspective, they still show that a significant percentage (33%) of 35+ year olds use Facebook. That is one-third of all users and more than the 3 to 17 year old group!
Now if you really want to skew things, let's look at LinkedIn. Anyone familiar with this social media platform knows that it obviously favors the 35+ year olds based upon its focus on professionals. No faux pas here. The 35+ year old group represents 76% of users. That is tremendous.
But no analysis would be complete without including MySpace (at least until it dies a natural death). Clearly, compared to the other sites reviewed, MySpace is most representive of the incorrectly held believe that social media is a kids space. Perhaps the reason for this is because MySpace was an early MAJOR entrant in social media. Of course, if you follow MySpace you realize that without some major changes this platform will become a small niche platform or fall off the scene altogether. However, despite its emphasis on youth (28% 3 to 17 year olds and 46% 18 to 34 year olds) the platform has a decent percentage of older users at 26% of total users.
Of course I left out many other platforms. But my point was not to provide a comprehensive survey of the space. The point was to illustrate that social media use is not dominated by the young. Older consumers with the need for checking, savings, mortgages, investments and other grown up financial products and services are very well represented on social media platforms. Therefore, if you are dismissing social media as a kid's game you are risking not only losing the game but a significant amount of business to your competitor that realizes that the faux pas is not on him but on you.