Baby Boomers, Social Networking and Competitive Advantage

Posted by: Alin Wagner-Lahmy | Date: May 26, 2009 | for: | Topic: Web 2.0
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This year we have seen amazing growth in Internet use by adults, with 45+ category gaining more and more attention and pulling more weight with web advertising and investment overall. Last week Danah Boyd posted about Facebook being for Old people, and more and more stats show how internet, and especially social media is being used by Boomers, especially fo networking and community purposes.

Some key facts from Pew Internet show amazing growth:

  • 2008 - today 36% of internet users are boomers (as oppose to 0% in 2000)
  • 2008 - 35% of boomers are online several times a day
  • 2008 - sharing videos and reading blogs seems like the strongest web 2.0 activity among boomers

All these show a great trend, and I was looking for some real inside info. 5 months ago I ran across the rare opportunity to meet an extraordinary man by the name of Carlos Hernandez, who made it his goal to educate, train and teach Social Media to the masses, especially to Baby Boomers. Following his presentation in CES09 (Social Media Jungle sessions) I asked Carlos about Boomers and Social Media. I was curious about why would Boomers find Social Media useful as well as what deters this group from using it; how does one explain the sudden surge and rise in Social Networkinguse with Boomers, one we have not witnessed in past years, and what are the main trends in it? Carlos and I exchanged a few emails a while back and now I finally have the opportunity to share them with you. there are some great pearls there:

"Suffice to say, the good news about being a Baby Boomer... is that we have the benefit of a built-up knowledge base and oodles of lessons learned. Alas, it can also be our down-fall, if we get so full of ourselves, i.e. hubris, that we ignore seeing our blind-spots and then wonder why we lose our jobs and less expensive, younger people seem to be our biggest competitors in the job search."

"Social media, and in particular LInkedIn, Facebook and Twitter are potential game-changers for us, because they allow one to be less of a stuffed shirt, without dumping the experience of walking the corporate halls. How? I find these powerful tools to be just the communication mode that opens the door to be more human. The ability to post a picture, list groups where we participate  (volunteer and professional) plus encourage asking and answering questions which opens windows for one to be heard and seen."

Carlos also shared this valuable link:  "Doctors, engineers, lawyers and any of many other classic professionals now have the avenue to sound less like a boiler-plate-laden resume. Liz Ryan, San Francisco Chronicle writer and 25-year HR veteran voiced the following in her recent article titled "The Savvy Networker: Eight Little Known Tricks for the Job Hunt".  "Yank the boilerplate out of your resume and give it a human voice, replacing the "results-orientated professional" with "I'm happiest solving thorny problems that slow down product development" or whatever (human) statement describes you". And that to me so accurately reflects the spirit of Social Media - the personality and personal connections that enhance and boost our personal and professional lives.

Together with Carlos, Barbara Rozgonyi has written a a great post that list great sources to show why social media is spreading like fire among baby boomers. Highly recommended for more reading on the subject.

Boomers are key participants for a fruitful web, and web is key for boomers. Despite and because of the above all numbers, links, quotes and proofs, I am still constantly thinking: how does one demonstrates the value of social media to ones still not buying into it? how does one converts offline behavior to online behavior, to break the wall that sometimes is to be found between boomers and social media and most importantly - what happened in 2008 to have caused such a jump in percentage of boomers participating in social media and how can we leverage on that?