My mother's name is Loretta- you never forgetta (try using a heavy New York accent with that one). She's the type of Long Island Italian mom that knows everything about anything happening around town. Now...she's had a Facebook account for a about a year, initially created to satisfy her addiction for Candy Crush and other notoriously pointless games.
But when she's not casting out hundreds of game requests, she's getting tons of likes, comments and shares on her posts. In fact, with her mere 487 friends, her posts tend to receive more engagement than mine, and I work for an online marketing company! What gives?!
"Got the flu! I have been sick since Sunday... Can't get up out of bed ... I'm wiped out!"
This gem of a post received over 60 comments and 8 likes. Granted she replied to a few comments, but most of the comments were from different friends. This isn't a sporadic example. Her updates generally always get more reactions than mine or any other twenty-something I know.
While my mom could be considered the unofficial mayor of Long Island, her Facebook prowess is a direct effect of the social network's aging demographic.
The Facebook Age Shift
Once abundant with young millenials, many of Facebook's active users are older. According to a Pew Research study last year, 60 percent of Internet users ages 50-64, and 43 percent of users over the age of 65 interact on Facebook. Older people are using Facebook to not only connect with family members and friends, but to share photos and videos. As older people become more technologically savvy, they are beginning to see the value in social networking. In fact, since May 2013, senior social media use has skyrocketed in the last four years. The amount of people over 65 using social media tripled from 13 percent in 2009 to 43 percent in 2013.
As the number of seniors increase on social media, the number of teens decrease. With the social media industry flooded with a variety of apps, it makes sense that hoards of teens seem to be leaving Facebook. In just the last three years, the number of teens has decreased about 25 percent, equating to about 3 million people. In addition, research from iStrategy found that the amount of young adults, ages 18-24, has also decreases about 8 percent. Teens and young adults are shifting to more visually based apps like Snapchat and Instagram.
However, could this mass exodus of teens be a direct effect of the growing number of older individuals and parents on the social network? Probably. Facebook's privacy settings and its eagerness to know everything about its users most likely deterred teen usage. Teens, a demographic known for wanting to hide things from their parents, don't like the fact that Facebook wants to make their information available to all, regardless of its privacy settings. Older people, known for their lack of Internet intelligence, enjoy sharing everything, commenting on everything, and liking everything. Hence why my mother gets more engagement than I do as a young twenty-something.
Why Brands Should Care
As Facebook ages, it's important for brands to change their social media strategies and adhere their content for the older demographic. For instance, if a brand has a great deal of older fans on Facebook, it should propose more questions or prompt fans to answer them in the comments section. Because older fans tend to be more likely to post comments and reply to posts, it's best to create posts that call for that type of response. Since likes are also valued less by Facebook's algorithm, gaining more comments can help the brand pump up its engagement and boost awareness.
Brands that target younger demographics should obviously be focusing on new ways to use Instagram, Snapchat and Tumblr. However, they should also make adjustments to their Facebook stratefy as well. Younger Facebook users will probably like something over commenting. But keeping in mind that younger users value more visual stimulation, brands attempting to reach teens should create a highly visual Facebook campaign with infographics, quizzes, photos and videos. They LOVE quizzes.
As technology advances and becomes more integrated into our everyday lives, we can expect the number of older users to rise... just be sure to keep an eye on your mom's Facebook activity for the new trends.