Social Networking Use Doubles Among Older Internet Users

According to a new Pew Internet & American Life Project report:
While social media use has grown dramatically across all age groups, older users have been especially enthusiastic over the past year about embracing new networking tools. Social networking use among internet users ages 50 and older nearly doubled—from 22% in April 2009 to 42% in May 2010.
What does this mean to building product marketers? A few things.

First, it continues the trend of adoption. People comfortable navigating social networks for their personal life will be more willing and able to use them at work. Developing the habit of sharing favorite pictures with family and friends also prepares them to share your content with co-workers.

Second, it's another nail in the coffin of the "Digital Native" myth that the youngest person in the office is the one most likely to use the internet at work. The day when heads of architecture and construction firms will have their own Facebook profiles isn't some distant future event; it's already here.

Third, keep this in mind as you design your shiny new website and Facebook fan page. There are important generational differences in how users navigate through a page and find information (for example, younger users are better able to adapt to non-standard navigational schemes), so designing exclusively for one audience may alienate an important demographic from your audience.

I would assume that this trend also means "older users" are increasingly willing to experiment with other new media, such as podcasts and phone apps. We considered and rejected a podcast idea a while back because the audience demographics didn't match our target audience well enough, but it may be time to reconsider that.

Frederic on ReadWriteWeb also notes that, according to the report:
No matter the growing popularity of social networking services among older users, email and online news sites are still far more popular than Facebook and Twitter among this age group. Overall, 92% of all older adults and 89% of all seniors send or read email daily. With regards to online news gathering, 76% of older adults get their news online and 42% say they do so daily. Among seniors, about 62% look for news online and 34% say that they do so daily.

H/T ReadWriteWeb
In other words, even with increased cross-generational adoption, it's still important to match your medium to your audience.