So, in using Twitter, are we as adults bound by this "ham radio" for the web that won't be picked up by the generation behind us? Will it become the web version of playing bridge? or the social media equivalent of donning whites and playing lawn bowling?
A client asked me yesterday whether or not, their target audience of middle-aged people were on social 'nets like Twitter. I usually pay a certain credence to people's outmoded beliefs about the 'net - on this one I was blunt - "Yes, incontrovertibly, indisputably, old people are on Twitter.... in droves."
Here's my support, according to Pew, the average age of a Twitter user is 31 (vs. Facebook at 27) , some sight the figure as high as 41 and getting it's getting older. Although people under 25 make up 25% of the internet, they make up only 16% of the growth of Twitter. Twitter reaches 6% of people under 25 and 12% of over 25s.
Why the gap? Here are my lead 10 thoughts (borne out of discussions with many staff and influencers under 25):-
1) Twitter was started by adults and flourished through adults (unlike Facebook), and who wants to hang with serious-minded, self-promoting adults when you can hang with narcisstic, self-promoting young people
2) Teens are very into themselves - SMS is a much more fluid, "all about me" medium - the average teen sends 440 text messages every week in mediums they use already (this type of frequency would kill a follower list) - even the ADD-driven twitter universe delivers an average of 244 updates per quarter per member
3) A twist on reason #1 - Twitter etiquette frowns on privacy, people don't follow people with protected updates - and generation of hard-wiring suggests teens simply don't want parents to know what they're doing.
4) Twitter is filled with professionals, certain professions way overindex on Twitter usage - teens simply aren't ready to get serious and "into" the workforce yet - the majority would rather focus on getting through school and overcoming the social minefield that is teen life - not too much advice or coaching on Twitter that does that.
5) Teens haven't crested on smartphone use - although 13% of us have smartphones - teens aren't well above that index (how many teens have a company-enabled Blackberry?) and a lot of what makes Twitter go is mobility and context.
6) Highly publicized adoption of Twitter by Oprah, Demi Moore, Martha Stewart - not exactly the stuff of Zac Efron and Miley Cyrus.
7) Social 'nets Facebook and MySpace and YouTube (with 18-24 year olds) have done a particularly good job embedding themselves into the under 25 life - what time is left over?
8) Teens actually have a real life - they play sports, go to movies, have cottage parties - who has time to Tweet when you're actually doing stuff?
9) I hate to say this because relatively speaking Twitter is pretty lazy, but to be followed on Twitter actually does require thoughtful, pensive stuff to broadcast in small bite-sized forms - the frequency of bff, imho, ttfn and myob on Twitter is scarce vs. links to Techcrunch and Mashable
10) Twitter strength is its weakness with teens - there is not a wide range of stuff to do onTwitter - you can broadcast and digest content and play around with it through things like Tweetdeck but that's about it - teens want to poke, gift, game, play "Hot or Not" ...sometimes all at the same time...Twitter doesn't have that bandwidth (imagine the Fail Whales if it did)
Any other lead thoughts on why teens and young adults haven't taken to Twitter like a tawdry Perez Hilton post...