Thursday, April 01, 2010

Ages of Social Network Users - Why do you Care?

I just taught a Social Networks for Educators class earlier this week. Good class – interesting group. As is typical of universal energy (What?), after the class is over, I start getting/noticing all this new and interesting information about social networks. *sigh*

Social networks are a hot area right now. Duh. I guess a more interesting prediction might be to say, when the flame of hotness eventually burns a little lower, social networks will have found a solid home in education. I am still wondering what that will look like. Right now it is a bit awkward. Right now there isn’t huge support or understanding. Right now, none but the early adopters are on board. Right now, potential and vision are limited.

So, on Facebook I ran across a blog post from the EDUCAUSE Learning Initiative, Study: Ages of Social Network Users. I love this kind of stuff. I admit I have not investigated the research. I do know it is from Google – I know, I know . . . . It’s really more of a comparative study than research.

It goes something like this:
“How old is the average Twitter or Facebook user? What about all the other social network sites, like MySpace, LinkedIn, and so on? How is age distributed across the millions and millions of social network users out there?
To find out, we pulled together age statistics for 19 different social network sites, and crunched the numbers.”

Here is what caught my attention: the least active age group is the exact age group everyone assumes is doing nothing but living via social networks – the 18 to 24 age group. I can think of a million reasons why this may be so, but I can also think of a million reasons why this could be so for any other age group, as well. So what gives? And, that’s not the only question I have. What does this mean for business owners and marketing efforts since this age group will soon become the bigger consumers? Will this trend follow this group, or will they become more active as their circumstances change? What does this mean for education – especially post secondary? Are they already bored by all this? Are social networking tools in education going to be another one of those “day late and an idea short” things that wears everyone out?

What do you make of the 35-44 age group being the largest? Come on, it’s not like this age bracket has more spare time. Maybe they do and I have just lived my life wrong.

Another bit of information caught my attention from a satellite article I read. Eighty-four percent of the people on sites like Facebook are female. Many people commented that although a female majority is true, that this was a false representation since many businesses create female accounts to attract customers. I think it would be more interesting to compare which gender is more ACTIVE as opposed to just having an account. Same with age -- although there are few users in the 18-24 age bracket, I wonder if they might be more active?

I’m going to build on my previous prediction.( I’m brave like that! ) Social networking tools will find a solid home in education because educators will recognize what is valuable about these tools, and they will make them good and true and free and valuable. Much, much of the research shows that social networks (also known as community) aide in student retention, regardless of age. In education, social networks become personalized learning environments. They fit well with our media mindedness. Students are comfortable, find purpose, and feel they belong. When is that not a good thing?

Just thinkin’
Lee Anne

No comments: