Question: Are there more adults or teenagers on the popular social networks (like Facebook, MySpace)?
Percentage wise, the majority of teenagers join social networks, but adults make up the majority of users on social networks, if only because adults make up a larger proportion of the population.
That information comes from yet another Pew Internet & American Life Project report. 65% of online teens actually represents fewer users than the 35% of adults who participate online. Look closer and you see that the adult 35% group still tends to be younger adults. 75% in the 18-24 bracket use these networks, and at the other end 7% of adults 65 or older do. Overall, adults doing social networking is up more than 400% (to 35%) since their 2005 report when only 8% of adults had a social network profile.
The question then becomes - Why do adults use social networks? Is it for different reasons than teenagers?
We (and I mean adults) might guess that it's to network professionally with others in our field. Turns out that is not really the case. For example, 6% of adults surveyed use LinkedIn, a popular social network dedicated to professional networking. For comparison, 50% use MySpace, 22% use Facebook for both "professional" and personal networking.
From my personal experience, I find that more and more of my professional contacts will send me a message in Facebook (which they seem to check daily like email) rather than in LinkedIn (which they check infrequently or only when they are sent an update/notification email).
So what are adults doing in social networks? Pretty much the same as the teens. 89% report they use the networks to stay in touch with friends. 57% use it to make plans with friends and 49% use them to meet new contacts.
Now, it's possible there's some overlap. Meeting new contacts can be a professional activity, even if it doesn't begin that way, but only 28% of those surveyed specifically said they used the networks to make new professional contacts. Possibly it was the same 28% that said they do self-promotion of their work via the networks.
Does this also mean that adults use professional sites like LinkedIn, for social purposes? I suspect most of us would say that we do not. Still, if you use that site, you probably have noticed that they have begun to add new applications, an events section
Last fall, LinkedIn launched an "applications platform" (like Facebook) which seems to expand their original intent which was helping you find new work (jobs, collaborators, clients).
Defining "adults" probably has a lot to do with all these results. So, I was interested in some of the other demographics the PEW report offers. For example, MySpace users are tend to be women, Hispanic, black, and have a high school education or some college experience with a median age of 27. Facebook users are more likely to be male and have a college degree with a median age of 26.
Of course, all that is also very interesting to advertisers. So, if LinkedIn users are more older, white men with a college degree and a median age of 40, you can sell different products - or begin to add applications to pull in those younger men and more women.