Older surfers take to social networking

6 Oct 2006

More than half of MySpace.com visitors are now age 35 or older, new research reveals, exploding the myth that popular social networking sites are the sole domain of teenagers.

A survey by ComScore Media Metrix found that significant age differences exist between the user bases of social networking sites.

Visitors to MySpace.com and Friendster.com generally are usually older surfers, with people aged 25 and older comprising 68pc and 71pc of their user bases respectively.

Meanwhile, Xanga.com has a younger user profile with 20pc of its users in the 12-17 age range, about twice as high as that age segment’s representation within the total internet audience.

Facebook.com, which began as a social networking site for college students, also draws a younger audience. More than one third of visitors to Facebook.com are 18-24-year olds, approximately three times the representation of that age segment in the general internet population.

“While the top social networking sites are typically viewed as directly competing with one another, our analysis demonstrates that each site occupies a slightly different niche,” explained Jack Flanagan, executive vice-president of ComScore Media Metrix.

“MySpace.com has the broadest appeal across age ranges, Facebook.com has created a niche among the college crowd, Friendster.com attracts a higher percentage of adults and Xanga.com is most popular among younger teens.

“There is a misconception that social networking is the exclusive domain of teenagers but this analysis confirms that the appeal of social networking sites is far broader.”

An analysis of visitors to MySpace.com shows that as the site has experienced dramatic visitor growth it has become more popular among older internet users.

The most significant shift has occurred among teens aged 12 to 17, who accounted for 24.7pc of the MySpace audience in August 2005 but today represent a much lower 11.9 percent of the site’s total audience.

Conversely, internet users between the ages of 35 and 54 now account for 40.6pc of the MySpace visitor base, an 8.2pc point increase during the past year.

“As social networking sites have become mainstream, the demographic composition of MySpace.com has changed considerably,” Flanagan explained.

“Last year half of the site’s visitors were at least 25 years old, while today more than two thirds of MySpace visitors are age 25 or older.

“It will be interesting to monitor the shifts in Facebook’s demographic composition that will undoubtedly occur as a result of the company’s recent decision to open its doors to users of all ages,” Flanagan said.

By John Kennedy