By mid 2010, the number of Facebook users aged 35 to 54 had grown by 328% (190.2% in the previous year) while the number of users older than 55 years had grown by a tremendous 922% (513.7% in the previous year). Wow…aren’t we on to something here?

In a few years time, one-third of the profiles we will visit on Facebook will be that of gray-haired people. Your mom, your friend’s father, my uncle…just about everybody old will be on Facebook.

The rate at which the 55+ are signing up (see earlier data for US below) and the rate at which the growth of 13-24 age group is declining will ensure this happens. Just in case you didn’t know Facebook has always maintained that the 13-24 age group was their bread and butter. Not anymore, I guess.

Maybe, the younger-lot have started introducing the 55+ folks in their homes to Facebook because they are otherwise getting bored at home. Not to mention the fact that this helps us youngsters NOT feel guilty about not spending time with them – “ohh, I sent my grandpa a message on Facebook…he didn’t reply” “We chatted up for a while this week”
Besides, when we are away from home…the desktop with broadband is anyway lying idle.

Why should Facebook be bothered about its aging user base? Two reasons:

  • Since older people don’t migrate enmass – like school kids, college kids or office going folks – they are most likely to start their life on Facebook alone (or with a limited set of friends). When with a limited set of friends, it is only the Facebook applications that can bring about stickiness for the user. But as luck would have it most applications built inside Facebook are built keeping in mind a young, yuppie user thus alienating Facebook’s fastest growing chunks the 35-54 age group that’s growing at 328% and the 55+ age group that’s growing at 920%. I wish Facebook & other application developers think long term and build some applications/tools for this aging group as well.
  • If you’re an advertiser on Facebook, you can’t have a full blast ‘reach all’ advertising campaign because Facebook isn’t what it used to be – a gang of young, impressionable people. For your ads to be effective, you need to target the right users based on age – which means, you are working with only 60% of the Facebook user base and this percentage will only go down. Then again, if you are an institution offering services like retirement plans, Insurance, Mediclaim, etc….Facebook should immediately become your hunting ground.
  • Before we wind up, some thinking:

    The oldies might be 40% of Facebook’s registered user base but are they equally active on a day-to-day basis? Maybe the active user base is still in favour of the youngsters? FYI – none of my older friends on Facebook play Farmville. Anybody you know that plays Farmville? Or are we right when we say there is an opportunity for application developers to build Facebook applications for an older generation?