Social Media Is Not Just for Kids


Share on LinkedIn

Peer reviews and other forms of social media have exploded on the scene in many markets. And, it is not just the under 30 crowd that is using them.
In fact, in some cases, the user rates go up with age.
The September 2007 issue of Travel + Leisure magazine provides some good examples of this trend. In one article they selected the top 25 online travel related sites — the top 25.
Orbitz, Expedia and Travelocity can help you book flights, get a hotel room and reserve a car. But sites like can help you make meaningful choices on public transportation; can help build a customized itinerary for your visit; will let you see the menus of over 25,000 restaurants in the USA; pairs people reviews with people profiles to build communities of interest.
Most of these sites become increasingly rich and validated through customer participation.
Here are some of the stats that illustrate just how important these sites are to customers.
30% of Americans used online sites to book travel last year. Another 32% used online sites to research travel but bought offline because of concerns for credit card fraud.
5.5 million Americans changed their hotel reservation in 2006 based on another traveler’s web review.
62% of people 18-26 use online peer review to make travel decisions in 2006.
83% of people 50-61 did so.
90% of people over 62 did so.
Apparently the developers of these sites know who has the time and money to travel and are making sites to appeal to those age groups.

John Todor
John I. Todor, Ph.D. is the Managing Partner of the MindShift Innovation, a firm that helps executives confront the volatility and complexity of the marketplace. We engage executives in a process that tackles two critical challenges: envisioning new possibilities for creating and delivering value to customers and, fostering employee engagement in the innovation and alignment of business practices to deliver on the new possibilities. Follow me on Twitter @johntodor


  1. John, I’ve no doubt that people of all ages view product reviews, blogs and other types of user generated content.

    But what about actually participating in the posting? My perception (based on no research whatsoever) is that 20-30 somethings are more likely to post, not just view.

    Bob Thompson, CustomerThink Corp.
    Blog: Unconventional Wisdom

  2. As per the Social technographics report published by Charlene Lee of Forrester Research, there are six levels of participation in social media in the U.S.This comprises creators, critics, collectors,joiners, spectators and inactives.
    Interesting comparison of Apple and Dell users and relevant from the point of view of marketers who can identify their target market and which rung of the ladder they are on, thereby creating appropriate strategies towards using web 2.0 for onlime marketing and branding, developing customer relationships, and using customers from a CGM and customer evangelism point of view.

  3. Bob

    I was re-reading an interesting article on How Companies Can Make the Most of User-Generated Content on the McKinsey Quarterly at lunch. The article mentioned that on the social media sites they looked at in a recent study, although the degree of activity on social media followed a long-tail distribution with a minority of users making the majority of posts, users aged 25 to 44 were equally likely to post to the social media. The key to getting people to post was making it easy and worth their while to do so.

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager

  4. Graham, that article is based on a survey of “573 users of four leading online video-sharing sites in Germany.”

    According to the McKinsey article, “Visitors under 25 years of age made up the bulk of the video-viewing audience we measured, but members in the 25- to 44-year-old age group contributed equally to postings—suggesting that working-age people would be open to participation in enterprise settings. A sense of sharing drives these older users, who tend to forward videos to friends even more frequently than do their younger peers.”

    I don’t think this study can be generalized to “users of all ages post equally.”

    Bob Thompson, CustomerThink Corp.
    Blog: Unconventional Wisdom

  5. Bob

    You are indeed right, you cannot reasonably generalise to a whole population based upon such a small sample.

    The fact is, there are so many different factors that might causally influence the usage patterns of social media. Age is one of them. But so too are gender, income level, educational level, years of experience on the Internet and many other factors.

    For example, the recent Pew Internet report on A Typology of Information and Communication Technology Users identified a number of different groups of technology users with different usage profiles; the heaviest users tending to have the youngest median age. Unfortunately the study did not separate out the statistical influence of each of the factors mentioned above for the groups, (a number of which appear superficially to be auto-correlated), so it is hard to say whether age really is the driving factor in usage.

    Perhaps you have seen some other interesting studies that shed further light on this difficult subject.

    Graham Hill
    Independent CRM Consultant
    Interim CRM Manager

  6. Thanks for sharing that resource, Graham.

    There’s a good summary of the Pew report findings here.

    I’m sure there are a lot of factors that determine usage patterns, and I’m curious how age plays a role, directly or indirectly. The conventional wisdom is that “kids” are quicker to try new methods of online communication like YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. For them, email is old school. But it is really true?

    Personally, I think it’s a bit easier to experiment when you’re younger. You haven’t settled into any ruts yet, and isn’t it fun to try something different than your elders? As we get older, I think it’s tougher to invest the time unless there’s a clear benefit.

    That said, the profile of Facebook users seems to be changing rapidly, moving to older people out in the workforce.

    Does anyone have any examples of Web 2.0 sites where the heaviest contributors are more “seasoned” in life experiences? 🙂

    Bob Thompson, CustomerThink Corp.
    Blog: Unconventional Wisdom


Please use comments to add value to the discussion. Maximum one link to an educational blog post or article. We will NOT PUBLISH brief comments like "good post," comments that mainly promote links, or comments with links to companies, products, or services.

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here