Two weeks ago I was involved in a dialog about boomers and their participation with social media. Available data indicated they had no interest and little involvement in social media. I suspected the data was outdated, and offered up this response (this is copied directly from an email, please pardon the composition):
"The research suggests that boomer use the internet for research and shopping but aren’t that into blogging or social media. That said, things are changing. If our target audience starts in the mid-40s they are on the front edge of having their customer change significantly, because 45 is where the numbers seems to turn. Also, the audience in their 60s and 70s -- my parents are that age -- have really started to jump into social media over the last year. I think they are also probably experiencing more of a shift in who does the research about health, with more and more being done by women. Essentially there is a wave coming, that they may just think is high tide, but it is the front end of a tsunami.
Boomers use their children as guides in the beginning, and then heading off on their own with more confidence. I’m hearing lots of stories about people finding old friends and flames on Facebook, people they haven’t seen or talked to since the 50s (camp and high school) and 60s (college, dating, and the armed forces).
There is a core group boomer bloggers, I’m not sure how much of an audience they have, but there is enough to form a critical mass.
My take on boomers and social media is that social media is not generational in the way people think about it traditionally. It isn’t that the boomer generation doesn’t get social media and is not interested. What is happening with social media is that it hits each generation at a different time. It started with college kids. The spread out to tweens, teens, and 20-somethings. Then it hit 30-somethings. Right now it is ripping like a tidal wave through the 40 somethings. The 50 to 70 year-olds are starting to feel the impact, but there is no question it is going to hit them. Boomers have more time on their hands to get sucked into it, and they have that built in interest because of their interest in nostalgia. Social media (Facebook and the bulletin boards people often visit when doing web-based research) lead you to other things, including blogging. Boomers may never become big bloggers themselves, but they do read blogs seeing them as any other kind of online content."
Now Forrester has released a study that backs that hunch up. The percentage of boomers ages 42 to 52 involved in social media increased from 46% to 67%. For boomers ages 53 to 63 it increased from 39% to 62%. The Forrester data supports the tsunami theory.