social media research

Relationship building via social media marketing is not a one-size-fits all endeavor. Moms, teens and Baby Boomers are three big social media subgroups groups that are unique.

Just like with traditional marketing, the more you know your audience, the more successful you will be at grabbing their attention and keeping it.

In terms of marketing opportunities, recent online buzz shows teens, Boomers and moms as three of the most desirable social networking groups.  They are active on these sites and their behaviors have been studied closely.

Each group is unique, and the secret to success is understanding where they are spending their time and how they are using the social sites to engage and connect.

According to The Nielsen Company, global consumers spent more than 5.5 hours on social networking sites in December 2009.  In December 2008, users were only spending about 3 hours on the same sites.  That’s an increase of 82% in just one year.

Along with the data on overall social media usage, current studies have come out that focus on three major demographics.  Here’s insight into the social media usage of teens, Boomers and moms.

Teens Blog Less, but Use Social Media More (Pew Research Center)

Recent surveys from Pew provide insight on social media usage among teens and young adults.  The 37-page report highlights the attitudes and behaviors of people 18 to 29 years old (Millennial generation).

Here’s a snapshot of some of the key findings:

Social Networking: As can be expected, online social activity is highest for teens and young adults. The data shows that nearly 72% of young adults and teens use social networking sites, compared to 40% of adults 30 and older. This is expected as younger people tend to be digitally savvy and socially connected online.

Social Sites: The sites teens and young adults are spending time on differ from those of adults. The younger audiences are much more inclined to use MySpace (66% of young profile owners have an account, compared to 36% of adults).  The same younger group is much less likely to have a LinkedIn profile, with only 7% participating in this career-oriented site, compared to 19% of adults. Most interesting are the similarities in Facebook activity among the groups. 71% of the younger generation actively maintain a Facebook profile and 75% of the older generation maintain one as well. Once again, Facebook always seems to come out above the rest in terms of social media adoption and engagement.

Blogging: 14% of teens say they blog, compared to 28% in 2006. Fifty-two percent of teen social network users report commenting on friends’ blogs, down from the 76% who did in 2006. Pew offers one explanation, “As the tools and technology embedded in social networking sites change and use of the sites continue to grow, youth may be exchanging macro-blogging for microblogging.”

Twitter: Twitter is a unique exception to most of the other data on teens and adults. The data points out that teens have not been drawn to Twitter as they have to Facebook and MySpace.  This is the one area that teens do not dominate usage over adults. Ten percent of online teens ages 14-17 and only 5% of those ages 12-13 use the tool.  Here’s another interesting stat: 13% of high school girls and only 7% of boys the same age use Twitter.

This report is extensive and offers insight into many more areas of online activity.  It’s definitely worth the read.

Baby Boomers Take on Social Networking (eMarketer)

A recent report by eMarketer looked at the social network usage of multiple generations.  They broke up the generations as follows: Millennials (14-26), Generation X (27-43), Boomers (44-62), and Matures (63-75).

Some of the most interesting data focused on Baby Boomers and their major jump in social media activity from just 2008 to 2009.

Forty-six percent of Boomer respondents said they maintained a social network profile (compared to 30% in 2007, according to a recent Deloitte study).

Here’s the breakdown on 3 popular social sites:


  • Baby Boomers using Facebook increased 107% from 2008 to 2009
  • 73% of Boomers maintain a Facebook profile
  • 90% of Matures maintain a Facebook profile  (That number comes as a surprise considering it was the highest of all generations.)


  • Twitter usage jumped 714% from 2008 to 2009
  • 13% of Boomers maintain a Twitter account
  • 17% of Matures maintain a Twitter account (again, higher than the Boomers!)


  • 13% of Boomers
  • 4% of Matures

“Boomers expect that technology will help them live longer and better lives and keep them connected to family, friends, co-workers and, eventually, healthcare providers,” said Lisa E. Phillips, eMarketer senior analyst. “To fulfill these expectations, Boomers are turning to social media, where they keep up their offline social connections and make new ones. Online marketing messages that help them build on their connections—and foster other online relationships—will get their interest.”

Tech-Savvy Moms Increase Social Media Use by 462% and Favor Facebook Most


According to a study by BabyCenter, LLC, the number of moms who use social media regularly has jumped 462% since 2006.  In addition, 44% use social media for word-of-mouth recommendations on brands and products and 73% feel they find trustworthy information about products and services through niche online communities (parenting, groceries, family, etc.).

In addition, data from lucid marketing and Lisa Finn found a whopping 96.3% of the moms surveyed said they used Facebook to keep in touch with friends and family while only 10.4% said they focused on checking out companies or products while on social networking sites. The good news was that moms were more receptive to marketing in general, a big plus for companies marketing in this space.

Here are some facts to keep in mind when marketing to moms on Facebook:

  • 75% are Facebook fans of at least one company or brand
  • 16% of mom Facebook users followed more than 10 companies’ fan pages
  • 59.9% of moms feel neutral about Facebook ads, while 36% actively dislike them
  • Their favorite pages focus on parenting info, and pages focused on coupons, restaurants, groceries and entertainment (kid-oriented entertainment being the most popular).

“Facebook is fertile ground for marketers to engage mothers and drive sales, but it needs to be done on their terms,” said Kevin Burke, president of lucid marketing, in a statement. “They have no time for brands that don’t ‘get it,’ but they do embrace brands that play by their rules.”

Now it’s your turn!

Do you market specifically to any of these three groups online?  If so, does the data support your experiences or is it missing something? What other groups do you think marketers should start paying more attention to in the near future?  I’d like to hear from you.  Please comment below.

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  • Great post. I market to boomers, and have a fan page on Facebook. Would love to see some tips on how to really use those Fan pages to market better. They don’t seem to have the impact that personal profiles do.

  • Excellent post, Amy. I especially found your facts on moms and Facebook very informative. Really, Facebook is an extremely fertile ground to reach out to moms for retail products. I use social networking sites to market brands for my clients that create baby products and retail goods. But more than Facebook, I’ve noticed that community blogs and personal blogs play a bigger impact in convincing moms than Facebook. Facebook is a great medium to spread the word, but my personal favourite is still mommy blogs that are read and revered by several moms, at least in my time zone. At the end of the day, we need to start a fire somewhere before we can spread it.

  • lindamickle

    Very interesting post. Tom Brokaw spoke to the Boomers and Social Media in his CNBC special on Boomers last night. Being smack dab in the middle of the Boomers myself, I reflect the statistics you post in your blog.

  • steveborowski

    Thanks for validating what I was doing myself with Social Media. LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter and blogging are the cornerstone to my campaign to use Online Marketing in my business. The hardest thing right now is carving out the time and not letting it consume more than the return on the investment. Most business owners are not seeing dollars in return for their social media campaign and this site is helping change that. That is the biggest challenge I am seeing for me and with my clients.

  • Great to know! I market to moms and I maintain a Facebook Fanpage. Keep giving us tips about how to make the most of our pages!!!

  • whistlerheather

    I have noticed myself that most my friends (40’s) are using Social Media to stay in touch, I mean I would not be talking to most the people I am conversing with now if it wasn’t for Facebook… I tweeted during the entire Olympics live from Whistler… I have a girlfriend who has created a blogging site from home while she raises her three kids… I find this new way of life amazingly easy and I love it… it gets me jazzed!

  • beverlyhunt

    As a fellow boomer, it’s interesting to see the rise in those of us who are finally getting active with social media. I appreciate this post because it provides good information I can use to persuade my generation that social media is here to stay and that it’s time to take action to stay in the loop.

  • storkbaby

    Great post! Very informative and helpful info! It’s great to know mom’s are major facebook users and to hear what they are most interested in.

  • teachwithgames

    Great post! When I ask for and accept friendships on Facebook (moms and daycares/schools, boomers), I always invite them to my site (and ask for a link, if a blogging mom or school). I do this five or ten times a day (now) and get a written response several times a week. Usually a ‘thanks,’ sometimes they respond to the link request. It has always been positive.

  • hm24co

    I wonder why the study doesn’t mention Gen X? I’m in this group, and have seen a huge increase in Facebook usage by generation since early 2009. We are now using Facebook as the primary means of communication for a 20-year high school reunion. Thanks for the post!

  • Very good and well written. Extremely important to focus on your individual vertical when engaging social media. These stats point in the right direction to really identifiying a strategy you need to have for each network. I agree on the GenX many people on my team here are GenX and the difference of usage between GenX and Millienials is interesting. Especially on Facebook.

  • Very good point, I wondered the same thing.

  • Great read Amy. Number of matures are little surprizing, but i think they are using social media for engagement. As social media has become a launch pad for marketers, so this will give them insight to sharpen their marketing strategy. Among social media, Facebook is the first choice for marketing. So Brands can go for target marketing.

    Thanks for the post and looking forward for the same….!!!

  • Thanks for spurring it out! I wonder the same.

  • TGR22

    Interesting blog, Amy, but it’s missing an important part of the equation: Generation Jones (between the Boomers and Generation X). Jonesers are 26% of all US adults and a hugely important group to look at in terms of social media use.

    Google Generation Jones, and you’ll see it’s gotten lots of media attention, and many top commentators from many top publications and networks (Washington Post, Time magazine, NBC, Newsweek, ABC, etc.) now specifically use this term. In fact, the Associated Press’ annual Trend Report chose the Rise of Generation Jones as the #1 trend of 2009. I found this page helpful because it gives a pretty good overview of recent media interest in GenJones:

    It is important to distinguish between the post-WWII demographic boom in births vs. the cultural generations born during that era. Generations are a function of the common formative experiences of its members, not the fertility rates of its parents. And most analysts now see generations as getting shorter (usually 10-15 years now), partly because of the acceleration of culture. Many experts now believe it breaks down more or less this way:

    DEMOGRAPHIC boom in babies: 1946-1964
    Baby Boom GENERATION: 1942-1953
    Generation Jones: 1954-1965
    Generation X: 1966-1978

  • hm,

    GenX is pretty much the generation driving most of the social media innovation. So the studies showing the not so obvious groups get more play.


  • I have never heard of that generation referred to as the “Jones”

  • guldem

    very usefulll post. thanks 🙂

  • AbhishekV

    Excellent post amy i think you brought in the essence with the various market research data brilliantly.

  • ellennaylor

    Excellent post and I also appreciate TGR22’s addition of Generation Jones since that’s me. My oldest brother is a boomer and we definitely have a different outlook and social media practices. I am on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and other industry specific Nings and have a couple of blogs.

    I have found that LinkedIn is the best payoff for my marketing consulting business. People find me there. Like any network, it takes time to build, both your number of contacts, but just as importantly asking questions and providing answers either to broad LI groups or specific LI groups. Since I do research, I also find LI to be a more fertile group for getting answers and finding people who are experts.

  • I would like to get stats by country, everything is sooooo US based, it drives me nuts. My business is based in Australia and my clients continually ask for stats on Aus. I love the article Amy.

    I would also like to understand the reasons behind what they are using social networks for, especially the older generation, I know that alot of it is keeping in touch with grandchildren, but I’d like to understand how they interact with brands.

  • Thanks for the info. I am, and continue to be very critical and concerned about the quality of social media research and the many false conclusions derived from questionable research. In this case, as with almost every survey based piece, it’s important to understand that if you don’t ask the right questions, you get mislead. Knowing how many people in a particular group have accounts is exceedingly misleading. We need to know how many are active users, active readers, active posters, and exactly what and how they use the platforms.

    Traditional web based metrics don’t work. We know the abandonment rates are very high, particularly in Twitter. Just a suggestion that we all need to be careful about “research”

  • ■Twitter usage jumped 714% from 2008 to 2009
    ■13% of Boomers maintain a Twitter account
    ■17% of Matures maintain a Twitter account (again, higher than the Boomers!)

    Who is using twitter? Who accounts for the 714% jump in usage?

    And yes, robertbacal is right – I read something like only 40% of twitter accounts are active…..

  • Hey Leah – I am guessing you could say only a small % of LinkedIn accounts are active as well. It still doesn’t diminish the value of the service. – Mike

  • Mahalo (thank you) Amy for this valuable information. It’s very enlightening to see the statistics of the growing popularity in social media. I, myself, am a baby boomer and it takes a while for the boomers to “catch on” to what this all is. Once we started to see how efficient it is, and how we can build deep relationships online with people we would probably never “physically” meet, it became fascinating and fun.
    Thank you so much for your research. It is very much appreciated!

    Kellie 🙂

  • shannontecson

    Great post Amy, thank you for sharing.

  • This was a very helpful article and really nice to have all the numbers in one space. Maybe I spend too much time looking at statistics, but none of the numbers shocked me. What I’ve observed in recent online behaviors of professional peers, friends, and family, they just make sense.

  • It’s real,it’s interesting to see the rise in those of us who are finally getting active with social media. I appreciate this post because it provides good information I can use to persuade my generation that social media is here to stay and that it’s time to take action to stay in the loop.

  • Just found this today while doing research on the social media behavior of moms. Very informative and thank you for writing.

  • Just found this today while doing research on the social media behavior of moms. Very informative and thank you for writing.

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