Don't forget baby boomers with smartphones

Posted Feb 21, 2012 | New Media Project

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By Lerone A. Martin
 

Best practices: During February, March, and April, 2012 the New Media Project bloggers are looking intentionally at new media “best practices.” Join the conversation: What are the new media best practices in your church or organization? What are some other examples of how communities engage in new media well? Tell us in the comments below.

Newsflash! It’s official. Americans spend more time on Facebook than any other U.S.-based website, especially baby boomers with smartphones.  In the recent Nielsen social media report, the global marketing and advertising research giant reveals several key facts concerning the popularity and use of social media in America. Such data suggest new ways to think about best social media practices for ministry.

First, while some continue to maintain that social media efforts are a waste a time, the report reveals that social networking sites and blogs reach over 80 percent of active Internet users. Moreover, such sites account for nearly a quarter of the time that Americans are online, more than twice that of online gaming (ten percent), the second ranked category of Internet usage. Email was third with roughly eight percent.  In fact, the other 75 categories’ online usage amounted to only 35 percent of Americans’ time online. Social media comprises the dominant form of Americans’ online experience.

The data suggest that a social media presence has become imperative for faith communities who wish to remain present and relevant. Moreover, given the abundance of social media options, their presence on social media should be thoughtful and innovative.

Second, and contrary to popular belief, not only is social media popular, it is increasingly popular with baby boomers (those born roughly between 1945-1964). According to the Nielsen report, close to 40 percent of social media users access social media content through their mobile phones. Next to GPS, consumers value social media capabilities more than all other smart phone features, with Facebook ranking as the most popular app downloaded on smartphones. Surprisingly, the driving forces behind the growth of mobile social networking are Internet users over the age of 55. As the first generation to grow up with the new media known as television, baby boomers are not strangers to new media. Rather, they are astute at incorporating new mediums of technology and communication into their social lives. In fact, in the past year, baby boomers have doubled their usage of social media sites via mobile Internet. Social media is popular and increasingly a mobile enterprise among those 55 and older.

To this end, faith communities that consist of a significant baby boomer population, as well as those seeking to address the same, should not regard social media as a marginal tool aimed at reaching younger parishioners.  Rather, mindful usage of religious media must consider this growing edge of social media consumers.

Lerone A. Martin, a research fellow for the New Media Project, is Assistant Professor of American Religious History and Culture at Eden Theological Seminary in Saint Louis, MO.

The New Media Project is a research project helping religious leaders become theologically savvy about technology. To request permission to repost this content, please contact newmediaproject@cts.edu.

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