The Internet Makes it More Likely You Will Be Social, Not Less

I once had someone say to me that he couldn’t understand why a group of social media folks were getting together in real life for a social media conference. He was talking about SXSWi and was clearly clueless but I like that there is now data to back up the fact that those of us in social media are actually… well… social!

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Four out of five Internet users participate in some kind of group in the “real” world, compared with just 56 percent of those who don’t use the Internet regularly, according to a new study from the Pew Research Center’s Internet and American Life Project. Those figures rise to 82 percent for users of social networks, and to 85 percent for users of Twitter — in other words, being social online makes it more likely you will be social offline as well.

Ever since the Internet first started to go mainstream, there has been an image of the archetypal Internet user: someone hunched over a computer in the dark, spending hours online instead of interacting with people in the real world. Although such creatures undoubtedly exist, this has always been an unfair portrayal of most people who spend time online, and the Pew data confirms that. Lee Rainie of the Pew Center said in a statement:

Use of the Internet in general, and social media in particular, has become the lubricant for chatter and outreach for all kinds of groups ranging from spiritual communities to professional societies to ad hoc fan clubs.

The Internet-related results are part of a larger Pew report on the real-world social activity of Americans — how many people belong to social groups in their communities, what kinds of groups they tend to join, how membership breaks down based on age and income, etc. But as part of the study, the group also asked those who belong to groups about their use of the Internet and of social media and social networks.

The report also found that a majority of Americans — both Internet users and non-Internet users — believe the Internet has increased the ability of groups to communicate with members and to draw attention to an issue. The report also found that those who are members of groups and associations say the Internet has had a major impact on their ability to communicate with and stay connected to other members of those groups, and to stay informed about the group’s activities:

  • 68 percent of all Americans (both Internet users and non-users) said the Internet has had a major impact on the ability of groups to communicate with members.
  • 62 percent of all Americans said the Internet has had a major impact on the ability of groups to draw attention to an issue.
  • 59 percent of all Americans said the Internet has had a major impact on the ability of groups to organize activities.
  • 53 percent of online users who are active in groups say the Internet has had a major impact on their ability to keep up with news and information about their groups
  • 46 percent of Internet users who are active in groups say the Internet has help them be active in more groups than would otherwise be the case.
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    Internet Gains on Television as Public’s Main News Source

    I have to admit, I check my newspaper apps (which seems like an oxymoron) upon rising each day. If I find a national news story particularly interesting, I’ll head to the Internet long before I turn on the TV. I even turn to a TV station’s website long before I actually watch the news on TV. So, where do you get most of your national news from and what does this say about broadcast news?

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    The internet is slowly closing in on television as Americans’ main source of national and international news. Currently, 41% say they get most of their news about national and international news from the internet, which is little changed over the past two years but up 17 points since 2007. Television remains the most widely used source for national and international news – 66% of Americans say it is their main source of news – but that is down from 74% three years ago and 82% as recently as 2002.

    The national survey by the Pew Research Center for the People & the Press, conducted Dec. 1-5, 2010 among 1,500 adults reached on cell phones and landlines, finds that more people continue to cite the internet than newspapers as their main source of news, reflecting both the growth of the internet, and the gradual decline in newspaper readership (from 34% in 2007 to 31% now). The proportion citing radio as their main source of national and international news has remained relatively stable in recent years; currently, 16% say it is their main source.

    An analysis of how different generations are getting their news suggests that these trends are likely to continue. In 2010, for the first time, the internet has surpassed television as the main source of national and international news for people younger than 30. Since 2007, the number of 18 to 29 year olds citing the internet as their main source has nearly doubled, from 34% to 65%. Over this period, the number of young people citing television as their main news source has dropped from 68% to 52%.

    Among those 30 to 49, the internet is on track to equal, or perhaps surpass, television as the main source of national and international news within the next few years. Currently, 48% say the internet is their main source – up 16 points from 2007 – and 63% cite television – down eight points.



    Social Media Marketing to Baby Boomers… Don’t Sleep on Their Influence and Power!

    I once saw a tweet that read, “If you’re over 40 and on Twitter I don’t know why you are here.” I would question that if you’re over 40 and NOT on Twitter or at least on Facebook, LinkedIn or YouTube I don’t know what you are doing… period. Social networking is not just child’s play anymore. Don’t let your marketing campaigns count out the Boomers. There are plenty of them and plenty of them are online!

    I’m toward the tail end of that Baby Boomer spectrum (some don’t even consider me a Boomer) and while I haven’t hit 50 years old yet I am often one of the more “seasoned” social media folks in the room. What I bring to the table is over 20 years of mass communications experience and using social media is just another way to communicate ideas. The social networking portion of it builds community. You can to recognize that there are communities of all ages. If there is a need, if there is a need, there will be an audience for it and you can use social media marketing to reach many of them in ways never done before!

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    Facebook is not just for kids anymore, nor is LinkedIn, Twitter, YouTube or the many other popular social media platforms and services. As today’s Pew Research Center study entitled “Older Adults and Social Media” concludes, “Social networking use among those ages 50 and older nearly doubled over the past year.” In fact, the fastest growing demographic of social networking users consists of Baby Boomers ages 50 to 64. Nearly half (47 percent) of internet users ages 50-64 and about one in four (26 percent) users age 65 and older now use social networking sites, according to the study.

    If your business or marketing department has dismissed Facebook and other social networking venues or social media platforms as digital playgrounds for indolent teenagers and twenty-somethings, this Pew Research Center study should be the blaring wake-up call to get you thinking otherwise.

    More and more older adults are spending increasing amounts of time on the internet and on social media sites in particular. As you might suspect, they are connecting with old friends, keeping in touch with family members, building personal and professional networks to help find jobs and advance careers, and managing their daily communications. And wherever your company’s targeted demographic or secondary market is spending increasing amounts of time, you should be shifting increasing focus on your marketing efforts.

    Even if you have a well-established social media presence, this recent study serves to increase awareness of the potential demographic you’re reaching via social media. As a result, you may want to revisit your messaging, so it resonates beyond the younger set and has more of cross-generational appeal. In other words, language like “Hey, check this out” or “You guys are gonna love this” might not be your best play.