News Update :

Seniors Go Social

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

We’ve already established that seniors read and publish blogs. Now a new study by the AARP and Center for the Digital Future finds that seniors are increasingly social on the web. Here’s a summary of findings, primarily comparing respondents over 50 to those under 50.

They are more active in some ways:
•They are more likely to check the web for news—at least once a day, sometimes several times a day.
•Those who are members of online communities are more likely to log onto their community sites at least once a day.
•They are more likely to engage in social activism as a result of participation in online communities.
•They are more likely to play online games.
They are equally likely to engage in certain activities or have certain Internet-related attitudes:
•They are equally likely to research products online before purchasing offline.
•They are equally likely to feel the importance of using the Internet to maintain social relationships.
•They are equally likely to say that their online communities are important.
Younger users, especially those under 20, are still dependent on the Internet for content and communications tools:
•Younger users are more likely to say that the Internet is an important source of information, but the number of respondents who agree with this statement has grown since 2002.
•Younger users are more likely to use instant messaging and to download videos.

This table from eMarketer (June 10, 2008) presents comparable data from another recent study. No one is surprised by the fact that younger users to more of virtually all the activities or that email is ubiquitous. Try reading across the rows from right to left. It’s also not a surprise that the frequency of use grows as you move down the age cohorts. Is is a surprise how much the activities increase and how active the 45 to 54 age group is?

AARP has long been a huge user of direct mail for membership acquisition. Their bi-monthly magazine has long enjoyed the highest circulation of any magazine. It helps to maintain that dominance with age-based publications;
Rate Base: 23.5 million
50s edition: 7.6 million
60s edition: 7.5 million
70s edition: 8.4 million

AARP has not let the Internet grass grow under its feet, however. In April they relaunched their website with a greater focus on interactivity and social connectivity. One aspect was the establishment of Bulletin Today page. To better understand the AARP perspective on seniors, note that they offer a RSS headline feed as well as email subscriptions to their weekly newsletter.

I registered for the Bulletin page to see what was going on. They immediately established my personal page and sent me to the profile page. They even offered me help in filling it out! Way cool! When they sent an email confirmation, it stressed that “you'll find exciting new ways to get involved, express yourself, and connect with others.” They keep reinforcing the connectivity message. Even cooler!

As far as I can tell, it’s a success. According to Kevin Donnellan, Executive Vice President and Chief Communications Officer, “Our Web site,, is experiencing steady growth among people 50+. Not only are they visiting our site for information, but they are also using our social networking, gaming, and news channels in ever-increasing numbers as this study confirms.”

Seniors are online. They are connecting with content and people there. Marketers who understand the needs of this cohort—growing not only in numbers but in technological sophistication—can indeed connect with them online.
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