Twitter is somehow more attractive to older people. Twittering public is more likely to be 45-54 years old rather than 18-24 years old. Based on respectful research, this news was quickly recognized as a fact rather than a speculation: Teens Don’t Tweet; Twitter’s Growth Not Fueled By Youth, Who’s Driving Twitter’s Popularity? Not Teens .
One of the explanations was the timing of Twitter – when Twitter became popular, teenagers already had other communication options. I tend to agree with Mahable’s suggestion that Twitter is not serving main desire of an average teenager – to connect with friends. Twitter is more useful for following news topics, what has never been a focus of teenage life.
However, the most interesting question, I think, is our surprise that young people are not mesmerized by Twitter, and a need to explain this unexpected fact. Most likely, we are surprised because of our stereotypes, or previous experiences, or success formula lock-ins.
We seem to assume that young people are more likely to be using all new technologies. There is another assumption that young people are more knowledgeable about new technologies than older people. I believe this assumption is incorrect, even if I caught myself more than once thinking exactly the same.
My own “Twitter error” was quite embarrassing. A few months ago I heard about a new group in town – Social Media Breakfast . I could not attend the meetings because of work, but when I finally had a chance… I felt uncomfortable… I was afraid to walk in the room of 20 year olds and feel as a lost grandmother… It was Social Media after all – a field for teenagers… However, my curiosity and interest for the field easily won over expected discomfort, and I showed up on the next event. To my surprise (and great relief!) the audience was full of people about my age. Yes, I saw young people, and I saw also older people; I saw some people I knew, I saw social media experts who were 10 years older than I, and I felt quite comfortable… Yes, I have not missed a single Social Media Breakfast since that first visit.
Why do we think that young people are more likely to adopt new technologies?
Oh, yes, there is truth in this fact, but it is probably true very briefly, until the technology becomes known enough to attract its true users. These real users can benefit from the technology, rather then enjoy its brief novelty.
Henry Ford was fascinated by his mother’s sewing machine. My 22 year old male coworker in my native country was proudly using his family’s brand-new washing machine, fascinated by its sophistication. Do we really know many young men enjoying sewing or doing laundry? Probably not…
More specific examples:
Thinking about any corporation – young people are not necessarily those who are PowerPoint experts or Excel experts. Young people do not know this software any better than the rest of us; however, those people who use this software for their work do, disregarding of age. Most of us probably come to that middle-age gentleman in finance with occasional Excel questions.
Twitter is just a tool; Twitter allows people to do certain thing and it will be the most appealing for people who like doing that “certain thing,” rather than just young people fascinated by novelty.
New social media platforms and technologies are spectacularly easy to use – we will probably see more tools adopted by a group of people with certain interests rather than age. I think it is wonderful; it is great for users, and very useful for marketers.