Do you use social networking to promote your church's mission and ministry? If yours is an older congregation, forget the excuse that middle (ages 50-64) and older (65+) adults aren't using the Internet for social networking.
The reality is that 71 percent of adults are online. This includes the 60 percent of 50- to 64-year-olds and 45 percent of people 65 and older who are on Facebook.
If your church – regardless of size or the age of the congregation – doesn't already use social media, today is the day to start.
You can use Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and other venues to publicize upcoming events, gauge interest in an idea or generate new ideas. You can share congregational joys and concerns. Most importantly, you can invite neighborhood newcomers and seekers – who can also be baby boomers and older – to get involved in your faith community. Each network has its best use.
According to the Pew Research Center Internet Project for 2013, 73 percent of online adults now use a social networking site of some kind. Forty-two percent use multiple social networking sites. However, Facebook remains the platform of choice.
While Facebook is popular across a diverse mix of demographic groups, other sites have developed their own unique demographic user profiles. For example, Pinterest holds particular appeal to female users (women are four times as likely as men to use Pinterest), and LinkedIn is especially popular among college graduates and Internet users in higher-income households. Twitter and Instagram have particular appeal to younger adults, urban dwellers and non-whites. Substantial overlap exists between the Twitter and Instagram user bases.
Here's a look at how the 50-and-older demographic uses social media.
FACEBOOK – 71 percent of online adults
Ages 50-64: 60 percent
Age 65 and older: 45 percent, up from 35 percent in 2012
TWITTER – 18 percent of online adults
Ages 50-64: 9 percent
Age 65 and older: 5 percent
INSTAGRAM – 17 percent of online adults
Ages 50-64: 6 percent
Age 65 and older: 1 percent
PINTEREST – 21 percent of online adults
Ages 50-64: 14 percent
Age 65 and older: 9 percent
LINKEDIN – 22 percent of online adults
Ages 50-64: 24 percent
Ages 65 and older: 13 percent
Pew Research based report results on data from telephone interviews conducted by Princeton Survey Research Associates International Aug. 7-Sept. 16, 2013, among a sample of 1,801 adults, age 18 and older. For the full report, go to www.pewinternet.org/2013/12/30/social-media-update-2013/.
And there's more.
An article in the Huffington Post ("Senior technology: 5 Facts about How Post 50s Are Using the Internet," June 8, 2013) cited a Google study of more than 6,000 baby boomers (ages 45 to 66) and seniors (67 and older). The research firm Ipsos examined how these groups use the Internet.
According to the study:
78 percent of boomers and 52 percent of seniors are online. The two groups spend an average of 19 hours on the Internet each week, more than with TV, radio and magazines/newspapers.
71 percent of boomers and 59 percent of other seniors use a social networking site daily.
82 percent of viewers said YouTube is their preferred online video-watching site.
77 percent use their mobile device simultaneously with another screen.
Courtney Rose, head of public sector at Google, said boomers and other seniors are often overlooked groups when it comes to technology trends. She acknowledged that the demographic does not "feed into the stereotype [of older adults] people may have." Rose also noted that 82 percent of older adults use a search engine to get information on a topic of interest.
Ready to jump on the social-media bandwagon? A great place to start is "The Beginner's Guide to Social Media" on Mashable.com. Here is the link: http://mashable.com/2012/06/12/social-media-beginners-guide/. You will also find ideas for using the different social media platforms at www.umcom.org/mycom. Click on the tab labeled "social."
Barbara Dunlap-Berg is associate editor of Interpreter and Interpreter OnLine.