According to a 2008 Synovate survey that analyzed 17 markets and polled 13,000 people, 58% respondents did not recognize the term social media. This study polled ages ranging from 18-65, the latter who struggled to recognize popular social networking terms. The regular users of social media are extremely vocal about the advantages of the media, which creates the mystic that more than 58% of users are engaged in the media.
Additionally, a 2006 comScore study reveals that popularity of social media is split between the 18-24 demographic and the 35-54 demographic (see chart below).
Typically, early adapters to social media sites are young millennials or Generation-Y, ranging from 18-29. They regularly visit social media sites and encourage their friends to adopt these networking tools.
(Mark Zuckerberg, FaceBook's Founder, by Tiner)
For example, in 2004 FaceBook was launched as an exclusive site for college students. Registration was exclusively limited to any college student with an .edu email address. Younger audiences yearned for the opportunity to join and officially became engaged in the college social scene when they joined the site. During FaceBook’s second period of expansion, the site opened to high school students. FaceBook’s gradual opening created massclusivity, which increased interest in the site. As demand for mainstream registration grew, the site eventually opened to anyone over the age of thirteen.
(Tom Anderson, MySpace's Founder, by Tiner)
Additionally, Tom Anderson and Chris DeWolfe strategically leveraged the youth to create interest in MySpace. In the initial years of MySpace, DeWolfe and Anderson encouraged bands with young target audiences to use the site as a platform to connect with their fans. Concertgoers were encouraged to register on MySpace and become official “e-fans” of the band. As popularity in MySpace grew, older generations, businesses and individuals created accounts to promote products and services. Similar to interest in Facebook gradually expanding to older users, interest in MySpace trickled up to older demographics.
Today, early adopters to social networking sites are not limited to young generations. Newer social media sites, like Twitter, are rapidly becoming popular with order demographics. In fact, Twitter’s “largest age demographic is 35-to-44-year-olds, who make up 25.9% of its users.” Additionally, users of virtual world communities, like SecondLife, the Internet’s largest virtual world, tend to be older then initial youthful adapters to social media sites. In fact, the average age of a SecondLife user is 36.
As mainstream interest in social media is divided between two distinct demographics, the 18-25 and 35-44 year-olds, it is crucial to find strategies that will bridge interest in order to maximize interest in your brand.