The share of adult internet users who are involved in social networking online has more than quadrupled in the past four years in the U.S. In 2005, only 8% of adults had a social network profile. As of December 2008, that number was 35%. What motivates those in older generations to go online? Is it the opportunity to professionally network with their colleagues? The answer may surprise you.
More Adults Than Ever
A majority of teens, percentage wise, join social networks, but it's the adults that still make up the bulk of these web sites. That's because adults make up a larger proportion of the U.S. population than teens, reports Pew Internet & American Life Project. So the 65% of online teens actually represents fewer users than the 35% of adults who participate online. Of course, out of that 35%, the adults that tend to join social networks still skews younger: 75% of those 18-24 use these networks, but only 7% of the adults 65+ do.
It's Not About Professional Networking After All
You may think that many adults have joined the online trend mainly to network professionally with others in their field. However, that turns out not to be true. Instead adults, like teens, are there to socialize with their friends and people they already know. Nearly nine in ten social network users (89%) say they use the networks to stay in touch with friends, and 57% say they use it to make plans with friends. Under half (49%) use the sites to make new friends.
Surprisingly, those on social networks for professional purposes are not as common as you may have thought. Only 6% of adults use LinkedIn, the online social network dedicated to professional networking, but 72% use other social networks (50% use MySpace, 22% use Facebook) for both professional and personal networking purposes. The most interesting finding is that less than a third of social network users are using them for professional purposes, regardless of which site they use.