Monday, August 29, 2011

The truth about seniors, teens and the sexes online

A year ago, I wrote on the numbers of men vs. women using the Internet and the portion of men using the Internet who were not white [Are you man enough to be global].

It was an arrow aimed at a variety of assumptions that had been made in marketing circles and coffee conversations: people over sixty are not tech savvy, if you need a social media guru hire a teen, more men than women are online.

No longer an overlooked segment, seniors are now recognized as an online audience to market to. In an August 2011 report by the Journal of Information Systems Applied Research, it says that senior citizens are “rapidly growing into a major segment in the online social networking market place.” [JISAR PDF]. The report also asserts that this growing group of online users finds a wide-range of benefits including building relationships.

While technology may be enriching the lives of seniors, Sherry Turkle, Professor of the Social Studies of Science and Technology at MIT, says that overuse of technology stunts the emotional development of teens. Teenagers flooded with communication gadgets are, “unable to converse effectively, to develop empathy and – just as importantly – cope with being alone or with awkward social situations by ‘bailing out’ via their cell phones.” [Source]

While I subscribe to the philosophy that smart marketers will observe college students to forecast the future of entertainment industry, and thus the future of online, we should not, nor do we need to, rely on a teen to craft our company's next social media campaign.

Reality is that social media is no longer only My Space and Facebook. It is no longer considered a hobby for high-schoolers. A recent report defines it as a career with social media evangelists embedded in multitudes of companies.

As proof, take a look at the latest study by the Altimeter Group. Their report demonstrates how deep the commitment to social media runs in the corporate community. The corporations they talkied to are not mom and pops where the family’s online fanatic chains him or herself to a computer, but in corporations boasting up to 100,000 employees: 1 in 330 Employees Publishes on “Official” Social Media Accounts.

People witb skill in the social media venue can make a living at it.

No longer seeking a career, but rather relationships, senior citizens are harnessing social media as a hobby. According to the JISAR report, it is imperative for organizations to identify the emerging senior market, assess how it will affect business models and plan accordingly, “knowing who uses social networking sites and their motivations may facilitate marketing of products and services.”

Purchasing capability means power.

Or does it?

Aileen Lee, partner at Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, wrote an article for TechCrunch: Why Women  Rule the Internet. Feminist geeks took offense when she touted purchasing influence as a flag of female power. Fem-Geeks rebutted that women should be focused on creating not purchasing. “Yeah, I’m not really thrilled at being told I rule in the cutting-edge areas of shoe shopping, diapers and coupons. And I say this as someone who buys a lot of shoes and diapers,” wrote Terri in the article’s comment section.

So, women know who they are, but they don’t like it?

Lee’s article makes a case that women are better at advanced planning, care more about saving money, and are likely to listen to advice. Lee suggests businesses should take a look at their team. “Do you have women in key positions?” She goes on to say that a business can rock the world if they “figure out how to harness the power of female customers.”

Advanced planning, saving money, and the ability to take advicewouldn't that person make a good leader?

What happens if businesses harnessed the power of female employees?

Will women craft a rebuttal for that, too?