in Social Media

Popping the Social Media Bubble

Recently, Courtney Dial, the founder of Pizzazzerie, wrote a great piece on Arment Dietrich’s F.A.D.S. titled “Why is Generation Y Not on Twitter“. The title alone had me thinking because, it seems like the vast majority of you out there seem to think that, well, everyone is participating in Social Media these days.

They’re not.

You and I are in the minority. The active Millennials on Twitter still represent the ‘early adopter’ phase of an entire generation. Don’t believe me? A recent study by Pingdom present some pretty surprising statistics. In short, you and I as twenty-somethings are not, at all, the majorty of the population on the Social Web.

Average Age of Social Network User

The results:

  • The average social network user is 37 years old.
  • LinkedIn, with its business focus, has a predictably high average user age; 44.
  • The average Twitter user is 39 years old.
  • The average Facebook user is 38 years old.
  • The average MySpace user is 31 years old.
  • Bebo has by far the youngest users, as witnessed earlier, with an average age of 28.

The Social Web is a small world, after all

Have you ever noticed that it seems like a very small world on Twitter, that you seem to somehow know all of the ‘major players’, that, like high school, even when you don’t want to see the one girl after that party last weekend, you somehow keep awkwardly bumping into her in the hallways between classes?

Yeah, it’s a lot like that because folks our age haven’t adopted Twitter for what it can be. And a lot of the folks WITHIN the Social Media ‘bubble’ haven’t figured out how to leverage those “in the bubble” relationships into real-life benefits.

  • Are you waxing philosophical on why you should use Twitter to people who are already on it?
  • Are your preaching job search advice to people who are happily employed?
  • Are you pushing SEO strategy to folks who don’t have a website?

You’re talking to the wrong people.

It’s easy to find yourself caught up inside the Social Media bubble – but that’s not where the magic happens, that’s not where dollars are earned, that’s not where long-lasting personal and professional relationships are forged. Nurtured? Sure. Enhanced? Possibly. But things rarely start and end within the confines of ‘Social Meda’.

Out of the initial context of her post, Courtney makes a great point when she says,

“They’re [Generation Y collectively] not comfortable engaging beyond their existing social network”.

Ever heard of the concept of cliques? Ever heard of struggling to leave your comfort zone? Of course you have. Both of these are VERY prominent in the Social Media space. It’s easy to get complacent and forget that to get the most out of the space, you have to escape the rat race, the noise, the talking in circles that happens every day.

It’s not easy and the echo chamber is pretty loud.

Social Media is great because everyone can do it. Social Media is also a huge mess. Why? Because everyone can do it. The low barriers of entry are a blessing and a curse. Because of this, there’s an incredible amount of crap and noise to cut through to get to the “good stuff”.

Expand your reach. Pop the bubble

Today I encourage you to to expand your reach – stop reaching out to the same people time after time, stop selling your product to people who don’t need it, stop pushing your content to folks who aren’t interested. Everyone in PR/Marketing/Advertising doesn’t have to only talk to people in PR/Marketing/Advertising. If you are, odds are you’re probably running in circles.

Chat with folks in HR, talk to that friend of a friend who started their own coffee shop, stop going to every tweetup in your city and start coordinating your own events that teach people who (desperately) want to know how to use the online tools you and I take for granted to achieve their goals.

Everyone isn’t on Twitter. We don’t all have Facebook Fan Pages. The entire world isn’t writing a blog. If you’re doing it, you are the minority.

Take advantage of the position and platform(s) you’ve created for yourself, and understand that you are REALLY limiting yourself if you’re only focused on what everyone else is doing in our little space.

(Photo Credit)

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  1. wow Matt, you really laid the smack down on this one. I like it! :) actually i love it! I've always wondered if i'm somehow technologically backward for not lusting after twitter 24/7. I mean, i have an account and i log in sometimes, but I'm not crazy about it. I guess I'm not an early adopter (as you correctly point out in your post). I guess the most surprising thing to me is that the average ages on these sites is so high

  2. Matt,

    You bring up some very solid points here. One of the things I've been thinking about is the importance of building your online brand in the offline world. A good amount of the people that I meet at networking events and who I exchange cards with are not in this social media world. I think we need to be reaching more to the edges of our niche and maybe even outside. When I spoke to Rich Lazzara he told me that he goes to conferences that have nothing to do with his industry because it can be incredibly valuable for networking. Definitely alot of food for thought here.

  3. Great advice Matt! I'm not a twenty-something like the intended audience for this post (sigh), but I fully agree with what you wrote. Whatever you're doing, figure out the audience you're looking to reach and then think of all the ways you can reach them. Some can be reached via social media. As those stats show, many can not. Solely focusing on social media will limit the reach and keep you in a bubble. Well done.

  4. Wow – I was not aware that so few 20-somethings were on twitter, facebook, etc. You raise a lot of great points here. It does seem like social media is a tight little circle of “cool kids!” It's so important to remember that as great of a tool as social media is it is so important to build those relationships in the outside world as well. Thanks for the reminder!

  5. Yeah – the average age is pretty high – surprising to say the least – but as another commentator points out below, while Millennials may not make up the majority of the 'user' population – we have to be mindful on how we're defining 'users'. For example, millennials may not have the numbers, but they might be SIGNIFICANTLY more 'active' on these channels.

    Thanks for the comment! Glad you enjoyed the post!

  6. Hey Kola. It really was the point Courtney made in HER post about Gen Y being reluctant to step outside their social circles. This is something I see time and time again, both on AND offline – but in order to actual move instead of spinning your wheels in the dirt, you have to expand your reach and consider 'outside' opportunities…

  7. Great point, Samuel. Didn't think about that while I was reading though the numbers, but you're right. Millennials may not have the 'numbers' but they may be much more 'active' (however that is defined). Would definitely be worth looking into further…

  8. Great follow up post, Matt! It's probably not a bad thing that our age group hasn't “loved” on twitter quite as much as you and me. Perhaps they'll get out there and make connections. I do hope they take advantage of Twitter for the positives it does have though, especially if they are in an industry where they can connect with leaders via social media.

  9. Thanks, Marc. First – I think it's very important to know that while this is obviously “geared” toward us younger folk, the same principles apply across demographics and generations.

    You bring up a KEY point. I am not at all bashing Social Media. Quite the contrary – Social Media and blogging has served as the foundation from which I've built my business from so far. But, as you point out – it's imperative that you figure out the audience you're targeting and then hit hem from multiple angles. They may be primarily on the web, they may not – there's no cookie cutter approach.

    It's easy for someone like me to get very caught up in the 'bubble' of Social Media and forget about the incredible amount of opportunity that exists outside of it. Sometimes we just need a little reminder…

  10. Hi Matt -

    I get what you're trying to say; make sure you're targeting the right market, don't rely on just one channel, do more to help others adopt social media tools.

    All excellent points, but buried in some misnomers.

    Comments like “that’s not where the magic happens, that’s not where dollars are earned” is a bit presumptuous considering how much money companies ARE making through social media.

    I'll also disagree with you that social media is a mess because “everyone can do it”. Social media is still in it's infancy and companies are exploring different ways of using it. It does create more noise as they explore and fail, but that's how we learn. As such, that learning helps us to teach others best practices for using the tools. And we can't teach what we don't know.

    Adoption is much the same as when TVs first came out. Initially, not many people had them. Now, there's almost one in every room. Same with desktop computers, etc. In simple terms, social media in sharing one to many. And in the online world, the younger generation is predominantly sharing one to one. The point is, adoption takes time – they will do both.

  11. It is a pretty small circle, especially considering the number of people who are 'on' Social Media. It's a smaller world and community than you'd think – which has been REALLY surprising to me. Often times I find myself asking “surely this can't be everyone” – and it's not, don't get be wrong…but it's a lot smaller of a pool, at least right now, than I thought it would be when I first jumped in.

    Thanks for the comment!

  12. Hey Kristof. Thanks for coming by.

    I think you're right – my comment about 'dollars not being earned via Social Media' IS presumptuous – especially considering it's served me fairly well myself in terms of some clients finding me via Social Media – although the vast majority are NOT active in 'this space'.

    And, I very much get what you are saying. Social Media has it's pros and cons, it's turn offs and turn ons – it is a bit noisy, but I'm not above the noise, my noise may be extremely obnoxious to one person and incredibly useful to another – the same can be said for what I am calling 'noise' in the post above – might be crap to me, but to someone who loves Twilight or Lebron James rumors, it may be gold (just an example).

    Last – I think what surprised me and continues to surprise me (because I AM so caught up in it) is just how small that bubble is. I have to keep reminding myself that Social Media IS still in it's infancy, even if it's become an integral part of my day to day and business strategy – it still hasn't for VERY many. Which is great, as it presents a ton of opportunity for us to go share our knowledge with those who want to jump in but don't even know where to begin.

    Thanks again! Good stuff…

  13. Agreed – me too!

    Agreed. Well said.

    Agreed. I liked your call to action in helping to teach others about the tools. So many people outside of daily SM know about it and that it can help them – they just don't know how.

  14. Agreed to your agreements, haha. In the past I've conducted 'Social Media 101' workshops for small businesses and while I have heard things like 'you're better than that' before – I think it's completely ridiculous.

    Social Media 'Expert' is a ridiculous idea – it's far too soon to be considered an expert of anything in this space, but as active users, we do hold a lot of knowledge that can and is extremely useful to those business owners and marketing reps who want to be active online, know they should be, but don't have a CLUE where to begin.

    It's that stepping out of the bubble and helping those out with what they need, where they need it, that can REALLY lead to some outstanding relationships and connections. I've already seen it time and time again with myself and others who are using ONLINE to forge relationships OFFLINE.

  15. I think that Twitter, like everything else out there, is a tool. One of many. In the line of work I'm in, there's relevance to being involved in Social Media – BUT, my usage of it has dramatically changed to the point of it being MUCH more focused on conversation and much LESS focused as a PR tool. But for someone like my wife, she wouldn't get much out of it and has no desire to join in our rat race.

    To each his/her own – I think it very much depends on where you are in your life, personally and professionally – and if you have nothing to gain, or at least if you're not having fun with it, you're wasting your time trying to be active on the web.

    Remember when you were just hopping on Twitter and just thinking about starting up a blog while you Skyped with me from the interrogation room? Look how far, and how fast you've come. Clearly Social Media has served you very, very well.

    Thanks for writing your post and inspiring me to write this!

  16. Matt,

    It's been a short while since I stopped by your blog. WOW. It looks great. Well done sir. Also, in regards to your post, I'm very impressed with this recap. The “social media is great” posts have certainly become common these days, but you really packaged this up nicely and shared a few points I haven't thought about.

    Thanks for writing this.


  17. Great post, Matt! The ages of the average social network users really surprised me. Especially those of Twitter and MySpace users. Your post perfectly compliments Charlie Gilkey's recent article on Copyblogger. Social media does have its pros and cons. But it depends on how you use it. I tend to think its influence is a little overestimated. In the end, what makes the real difference difference is establishing warm and true relationships with people, and not just having touch-and-go instances.

  18. This IS a very interesting point Samuel. It would be great to see an Age vs Social Media Activity.

    This has no scientific backing or study but I'd argue that GenX is equally as active, if not more. This is just an observation – what takes up more time? Drinking/Partying or Kids? haha

    PS Matt – you got a free liked comment because I missed the Reply button. haha

  19. Dude – I can't decide whether to feel really old, or really cool, or what after reading this. By definition of the chart, it appears I am average, at least as far as LinkedIn goes. Haw hum…average eh?

    Good work.

  20. Hmmm… I'm gonna have to quote Kola with a major, “Wow Matt” – this is really direct, concise and well written, on top of amazing content.

    I've noticed that expanding outside of my own “clique” (I'm very Gen Y) has been a struggle to overcome. The more I'm blogging and enthusiastically reaching out to readers on Twitter and via comments, the more I'm enjoying not having a specific “circle”.

    I think that the major skill I'm missing is how to find NEW circles. That's a hidden treasure of a skill.

  21. SUPER SMART blog post, Matt! Wow. One of the really interesting things we noticed about Courtney's blog post is that Gen Y DOES read, comment on, and consume blogs at a very high rate. Although the post was highly tweeted, most of the tweets were from Baby Boomers trying to figure out what to tell their kids or younger employees about Twitter. We found that most people commenting on the blog came from other traffic sources, such as StumbleUpon and good ol' Google. Pretty interesting case study and we'll be doing more for this generation (including a blog post from you!).

  22. Glad you decided to come by Len – and thanks for the compliment. Social Media IS great, but the blind 'social media is great' posts are getting pretty old. Social Media isn't the key to the palace, it's just one of (many) tools – I know, preaching to the choir.

    Let's get together soon buddy! Hope all is well.

  23. Thanks for being here! Believe it or not I didn't see Charlie's article until someone mentioned it this morning, but yes, he is VERY MUCH on the same page. In order to build readership, in order to build a business, you MUST expand your reach…Point well taken.

  24. Being able to get involved in circles outside of my realm of knowledge and 'expertise' has been EXTREMELY rewarding – I can benefit from what they know (because I really don't know it) and they can benefit from the knowledge I have that they may be totally clueless about. If you're talking to people about things they already know all about, you're just running in circles and you're not really moving FORWARD – and that's what is, by far, the most important.

  25. Gini. Thanks so much for stopping by. Always a pleasure to be graced by your presence in my neck of the woods. I see a HUGE opportunity in educating and consulting with those outside the 'Gen Y' world about how the heck to market (effectively) to folks like me. And, I also think that rather than someone on the outside saying “here's how you market to them” there is a LOT of value in someone, like me, saying “this is how you market to me – this is what *I* respond to – this is what *we* see as effective”.

    I'm thrilled that you guys are open to having me write for FADS – can't wait!

  26. Damn…I tried 'liking' my own comment but apparently DISQUS doesn't encourage narcissism. :)

    I think overall Social Media – especially Twitter – does have a much older 'active' demographic than most would think. I don't see many high-schoolers Tweeting – they're stil on Facebook, or heck, even Myspace. It's really interesting to me to see how “segregated” these social channels are…

  27. Indeed – I just voted myself winner of the prehistoric social media award. Feeling good about that, off to go hunt me down a neolithic creature to kill n eat for lunch. How's that for offline networking?

  28. Very good thoughts. Since beginning my own blog 6 weeks ago I thought I was going after a certain target audience and I continued to hound that audience, but now I realize that there is a much larger world out there and I have been neglecting them. I am seeing all kinds of individuals come through my site that I would not have thought of and I am trying to appeal to each and every one of them. My foreign visitors are what amaze me the most. I never dreamed that I would have individuals from some of the countries showing up but they are there. I guess all this time I just didn't give it enough thought. Thanks for reminding me again that there is a great big world out there and I need to go beyond my own block.

  29. Hmm, I'm sorry you felt that the tone was negative, it really was not my intent. Yes, I think much of Social Media can be extremely redundant and 'noisy' – and I do see a lot of folks spinning their wheels and not really GOING anywhere, but on the flip, Social Media and blogging has COMPLETELY changed my life, you won't find a bigger advocate for either. I encourage you to watch this video post I did a while back for more on that –>

    (And thanks for stopping by!)

  30. Focus is important, without a doubt, but TOO MUCH focus can really lead to burn out, fast. And like you said, it's silly to ONLY focus on one very small group when there's so much potential out there you could be missing. Thanks for the comment!

  31. Hey Matt – you're spot on about the active bit….at least if active means read and reply. My thoroughly unscientific research shows me that sites run by, and generally frequented by you whippersnappers are more lively. I guess these sites are like buzzy coffee bars, whereas sites run by and frequented by us dinosaurs sometimes feel more like the local library? Shushhhh. Kinda thing. Maybe it's a more engaging tone too, but for sure – there's a line to be drawn somewhere on the chart thingie that slices being there from doing there. And – for what it's worth – I'm as cool with just being as I am with just doing. They're both fine.

  32. I’m surprised the average Twitter user is 39 years old. Hmmmm, that can’t be right!

    But, if we are the minority, then great! B/c more and more people are coming, that’s why Twitter is valued at $3 billion + now with little revenue. Yihaw!

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