Facebook: Average Irish User Pushing 30

posted on 24th Sep 2010

It may be a misconception that social media, and more-so social networks, are dominated by teenagers and early twenty somethings as research from the USA, and a little bit of number crunching I did myself, indicates.

Since 2008, statistics from the USA, have indicated that one of the fastest growing age groups on Facebook has been in the 50+ category. The rapid growth, in percentage terms at least, is due to the relatively low starting point this age group began from. After all, it is the younger audience who tend to be more technology savvy and clued in about online services, and so more than likely to adopt new technologies. But the older audience, sometimes referred to as ‘silver surfers’ are getting more involved in social media. The growth in popularity of Facebook in older audiences, and those who might not be considered the ‘typical user’ is is due in some way to the greater understanding of what uses and benefits social media can provide, not just to teens or twenty somethings but for those right up to their 80’s and older.

Social Media & Age in the USA

A recent chart from Flowtown, has some interesting stats about the use of social media by different age groups. These statistics relate to the USA market and are not as relevant here. However, they may point to where the social network audience is going to come from in the future. Some interesting points from the chart (which can be viewed in its full size glory here) include:

– 47% of the 50 to 64 year age group are using social networks

– 26% of the 60+ year age group are also using social networks

– The average Linked In user is 44 years of age

– The average Myspace user is 31 years old

– The average Facebook user is 38 and 61% are over 35 years of age

– The average Twitter user is 39, with 65% of users aged over 35

Surprising stats given the perception that it is teenagers and twenty-somethings that predominately use social networks. Perhaps, in Ireland at least, this perception is rooted in the era when Bebo was the most popular social network here. It’s not too surprising that the more business orientated services (I’d include Linked In and Twitter in this), have the oldest average user age, but Facebook is right behind. With such an older demographic, is there a market entry point for a new social network aimed at teenagers and younger adults? One where they won’t find their ‘mom’ also using?

The Average Age of the Irish Facebook User

I can only compare the statistics for Facebook in Ireland, as these are the only ones accessible. In one of the first post’s on this blog I outlined the breakdown by age of the Facebook users in Ireland with the following chart;

After spending a bit of time doing maths earlier (and getting an accountant friend to run over the figures), the average age of an Irish Facebook user is 29.6. This is much lower than the USA’s 38 years of age. It’s hard to say the exact age as the 65+ years of age group are lumped together – as witnessed by the jump in numbers for that age category. Also these stats are based on Facebook figures provided in July. What we can say for now is that the Average Irish Facebook user is pushing 30.

The Silver Surfers Continue to Rise

While the average Facebook user in Ireland might be 30, the growth in the 65+ age category since 2008 cannot be ignored. As mentioned there is an inevitable slow uptake of new technologies by this age group. For example in 2008 (according to the Irish Marketing Journal) there was just 2,500 users of Facebook aged 65+, this grew to 13,500 in 2009 and the most recent statistics from Facebook show this group now accounts for 27,420 people. If the long tail of that graph above could continue on it could mean that there are people well into their 80’s (and beyond) on Facebook.

What Does This All Mean?

As with many trends they begin in the USA and take some time to reach other parts of the world. In the States Facebook is integrating itself more and more into offline life, and there is a greater acceptance by businesses there to use it as a communications channel, these could be reasons why older audiences there have been more willing to get involved in social networking. As Facebook becomes more ubiquitous here, as it slowly moves offline, as more and more businesses begin to use it, and it’s current population gets older then the average user age in Ireland will inevitably increase. Obviously there are other factors that play a role such as the age of the age of the general Irish population and even emigration. For brands looking to market to an older audience then they could do worse than consider including Facebook in their marketing communications, as a new way of reaching their audience. Advertising to older audiences will inevitably be cheaper than younger audience as more brands clamber for their attention.

While they do target the younger audience, it is worth noting that the average Facebook user in Ireland is far from being a teenager. In fact the last time they were a teen was in the decade before last or at the very latest at the turn of this millennium.