Are social networking sites only for teens?

15 Mar 2007|Leigh Marinner

Will Marc Andreessen succeed with Ning, which plans to make it easy for anyone, including adults, to set up their own social networking sites? Is online social networking a function of lifestage or is Gen Y just introducing the other generations to a behavior that many of us will adopt?

Why do teens use MySpace and Facebook so heavily? These have replaced email and even IM to some extent, as teens’ preferred way to communicate with their social group and to find out what’s going on (hot new music, who was at what parties, etc.) For teens, the meaningful experiences delivered by social networking sites are Connection and Knowledge.

Adults may not have the same intense need for Connection with a large social group as teens, but easier access to a social network in an area of particular interest is appealing because it helps us wade through the growing morass of available information. And it helps people connect with people of like interests. Personally, I’d much rather get a San Francisco restaurant recommendation from people who are foodies than from Zagat, which may have started out that way but now publishes the scores from too broad a range of people to be reliable. To take another example, American parents who adopt a Chinese baby would like to share with others trying to raise their daughter in two cultures. Much of this kind of connection now happens on blogs, but I would expect the social networking tools provided by suppliers like Ning will make the experience more enjoyable and easier to navigate.

Adults will gravitate toward social networking sites, to a lesser extent than teens, but still in significant numbers. While the Korean social networking site CyWorld is used by 90% of 24-29 year-olds, it’s also used by 40% of the entire population.

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