“Like Facebook with Wrinkles”

September 10, 2007 by Lisa Oshima | Social Media

The social media quote of the day goes to the International Herald Tribune, who published a great article on social networking for the retired set:

Technology investors and entrepreneurs, long obsessed with connecting to teenagers and 20-somethings, are starting a host of new social networking sites targeting their parents and grandparents. The sites have names like Eons, Rezoom, Multiply, Maya’s Mom, Boomj and Boomertown.

Think Facebook with wrinkles.

The sites are being built to capture the attention of a generation of Internet users who have more money and leisure time than those several decades younger, and who may be more loyal than teens flitting from one trendy site to the next.

Having watched the adults I know get older, I can see how online social networking can benefit web savvy retirees.  But, after reading the article, I can’t help but think that sites that specifically target older people, while excluding the younger generation are missing the boat.  As tech savvy baby boomers get older, it’s inevitable that over time, there will be fewer users, which jeopordizes advertising revenue. Beyond that, from what my own grandmothers tell me, the hardest things about getting old are watching all of your friends die or lose it.  To mitigate this, as you get older, it’s important to surround yourself with friends and family of all ages.

The other thing that a good social networking site should do for seniors is keep them in touch with what the younger people in their lives are up to (kids, grandkids, etc.).   I don’t know any kids who’d want to show their grandparents their MySpace page, and I don’t know any Grandparents who would seek solice in discussing health problems or dating with their grandkids.  But there’s a happy medium somewhere in between, easily achieved by expanding tiered privacy structures and allowing people to target specific content on their social networking pages to specific demographics of their “friends” and hide other content from other demographics of their “friends.”

The bottom line is that generic senior-focused social networking sites aimed only at seniors that don’t target a specific shared interest (like being a grandparent, dating, etc.) are short sited and won’t endure the test of time.  This leaves mainstream, leading social networking sites like FacebookOmniture (who just acquired Offermatica).

Facebook is the most successful mainstream social networking site in terms of attracting a wide age demographic.  If it is able to continue to grow it’s 3rd party developer network AND increase privacy and personalization features, it will be easy to grow an enthusiastic user base with wrinkles without becoming wrinkled.
opportunities to find ways to acquire older users by creating personalized content delivery networks (capable of delivering different messages to different demographics), while beefing up privacy filtering capabilities which allow users to determine which of their own content they want to share with which demographics of their online “friends”. I don’t think this is too far off.  Webmarketers can already change the look and feel of their sites and appeal to different age and socioeconomic demographics using tools like

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  • [this is good]
    Very true. Having kids and parents still alive myself I suspect that sharing photos is the way to get the older generation online.

    Still when I first read an article on this my first thought is “have they ever heard of Vox?”



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