Is Your Grandmother on Facebook?


Facebook audiences are diversifying as the site expands globally. Founded in 2004, Facebook has become the largest social networking site in the world. It has reached more than 500 million active users, and 50 percent of these users log in daily. It is translated into 70 languages, with 70 percent of users living outside of the United States, according to Facebook statistics.

With these statistics, it is apparent that Facebook has gone global. It has become a powerful marketing tool for businesses and public relations practitioners, who are now able to reach an audience that would have been nearly impossible six years ago. So who is this audience?

As will be depicted in the new movie based on the creation of Facebook, “The Social Network,” when the site first began it was geared toward college students. In fact, in order to sign up, one had to have a .edu email address. That requirement changed in 2007 when it opened up to everyone. Since then, the user rate has steadily grown to include people of every race, gender and age.

It was only a matter of time before baby boomers caught on to the trend and set up their own accounts. According to a Mashable article,  a study conducted between April 2009 and May 2010 found the Facebook audience “grew 88 percent among internet users aged 55-64” with usage among users 65 and older growing 100 percent. This study found that young users still dominate the site, but their numbers are growing at a much slower rate, only 13 percent. Will baby boomers and beyond end up dominating the site one day?

I’m sure college-age students are more than aware of the presence of their parents, aunts, uncles and even grandparents on the social networking site. In fact, I was shocked one day when I logged in and saw a friend request from my 80-year-old grandmother. With hesitation, I added her. My hang-up with this (as is with most other young people) is now I have to be careful with what I post. But the simple fact is: we should be careful with what we post anyway. Many potential employers now look to Facebook to see what applicants are posting. It’s not a forum to air all your dirty laundry, and it’s not a forum restricted to your friends anymore. Facebook is global, and 500 million people potentially have the ability to look at your information (check your privacy settings).

Public relations and marketing professionals have latched on to the social media phenomenon that is sweeping the world. Although many young people feel a little annoyed by the presence of the baby boomer generation, in the field of public relations it is beneficial. Opening up social media to an audience of all ages can have a tremendous impact on how people can be reached. With more and more people getting their purchasing and event information from social media sites, a whole new market can be tapped. So young users (especially those entering into the public relations field) should embrace the presence of the older generations.

So how about you? How many of your older relatives are on Facebook, and are you bothered by this? Why or why not?

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13 Responses to Is Your Grandmother on Facebook?

  1. jmjohn27 says:

    This is an awesome post. Thank you for writing about something that everyone wants to know and talk about. For me, both of my parents are on Facebook as well as all my aunts and uncles…my grandma too! Personally, since I never used Facebook in a bad way, I don’t have a problem at all with my family being on FB…even being my friends. I actually love it! It keeps me in touch with them when I go a while without seeing them because of school and work and other elements that add to my busy student schedule. Another interesting reason for what many people would call madness, is having my family on FB makes it easier for me to keep it professional. Anything I would not want my grandma to see, I probably wouldn’t want a potential employer to see either. Besides those facts, I think it’s great that the older generations are on FB simply for PR/marketing/advertising purposes. Like you said, FB reaches millions of people worldwide and makes it easier to reach targeted audiences. Older generations are still a significant portion of the consumer society and just because they are a little older doesn’t mean we should have to use different ways to reach them if we don’t have to.

    • alervin says:

      Jessica, I couldn’t agree with you more. Having my grandmother on Facebook helps me to filter what is posted, what is said and my pictures. Filtering your personal information is something that everybody should do. You made a really good point by saying “Anything I would not want my grandma to see, I probably wouldn’t want a potential employer to see either”–completely agree with you on that! I think the baby boom and older generations have huge purchasing power in our society, and they should definitely be an audience that public relations and marketers should target. I actually am pretty proud of my older family members who have figured out how to use Facebook when just a couple years ago they could barely use a computer! Thank you for your response!

  2. lrstarr says:

    I belive this is an interesting time for Facebook and social media, in general. I remember hearing a social media “expert” during an interview say (something along the lines of): the initial Facebook demographic will “check out” when too much authority joins. Facebook is no longer the uninhibited socializing site for college students to share their inappropriate photos. It has become yet ANOTHER outlet for us to watch and be watched. I agree, in a way it has trained us to becoming more wary of what we post on the internet; things we now know can be tracked and never really deleted. But, by same token, our space has again been invaded. I have various professional social networking sites and now Facebook is at the bottom of that list. It has taken on an entirely different purpose. As Facebook grows up, it forces us to do the same. :/

    Leah Starr

    • alervin says:

      Do you think the “checking out” of the initial demographic is a good or bad thing? How can this affect PR?

      • cmmassey says:

        I don’t think that the “checking out” of the initial demographic is a bad thing. Every invention finds new purpose and meaning over time. Also, I think it is positive because it gives everyone the chance to be involved in this interactive community that is Facebook.

      • fspangeh says:

        I think that the “checking out” of the initial demographic is neither good nor bad- but inevitable. Most teenagers and young adults do not want their parents, grandparents ect. seeing what they really do in their spare time. There are certain aspects of every adolescents lives that should be kept private. Some ones drunken freshman college experiences should not prevent them from getting jobs in the future. Now that it is more widespread for family members and employers to view ones Facebook it makes complete sense that the initial demographic is checking out. From a PR stand point, I think the change in demographics will make it easier for corporations to reach a preferable audience. Adults control the household finances which makes them a better target for PR social media tactics.

  3. jlmart20 says:

    I have friends and family all over the world so I am grateful to have a source to keep up with what is going on with their lives. When I began using Facebook, I made a very clear and strategic decision to use it as a professional networking tool and a place to showcase my projects. This allows me to give potential employers a glimpse of my abilities and also a glimpse of who I am personally. I have chosen to keep my page clean and it has helped with my professional projects. All of my friends are well aware of this and are kind enough to keep their comments clean and keep unnecessary extra-curricular activity pictures off a public domain. Facebook is a great way to give yourself an image and it is important to make that image a professional one when dealing with public domain sites. Especially because of other analytical sites that document links, posts form the past. I can honestly say that when I Google my screen name I am pleasantly surprised to see how much of my school projects are online. It makes for easy resume sending – as I include hyperlinks to my work on my resume. I wish my grandma was on Facebook!!

  4. bmalex says:

    This is a great post, and I think it comes as a reality check to many people in our age bracket who are not realizing that the older generation is logging into social media as much as us, in some cases. While my grandma is (fortunately) not on Facebook, I do have a slew of other older relatives clicking around my Facebook often. Ironically, the way I find out they’re on my page is because of the emails or text messages I get saying they saw a wall post or picture! Everytime that happens, I’m forced to double-think how they saw something, but I must start remembering that Facebook is as public as you want it to be.

    I’m hoping our non-PR major friends are as aware as us about the effects of social media and being career driven. Like you said ‘alervin,’ there are 500 million people with the capability to find you on Facebook, and that makes the world a lot smaller of a space with connections all over the place. It’s time to accept older generations on Facebook, be smart about your personal pages, and open-minded about the ability to connect with them through PR campaigns.

  5. cmmassey says:

    My grandma is not on Facebook but my father is. It is interesting to watch his Facebook use. He loves it more than I do! He uses it as interactive tool to communicate his values, beliefs and opinions to his friends. He actually gets a lot of responses. At first, I was weirded out. Now, I realize what Facebook has done for people. It gives you a chance to share many components of who you are on the web. In real life, you don’t necessarily have the time to share every single YouTube video you have ever watched or have your friends write down the links to your favorite websites. With Facebook, you have that opportunity to invite others to understand you on a new level.

  6. jweishar says:

    Facebook has evolved so much since it was founded. I remember being a junior in high school when my brother, a freshman in college, came home and was raving to me about Facebook, showing me all of his friends’ profiles. He already seemed addicted, but I had no idea what it was. A few months later, they opened it up to high schoolers, but they couldn’t be friends with college students. Then they joined the two together so that they could be, and it became open to more and more people.

    The concept of Facebook is so interesting and has become a part of our daily lives so much that it would make sense for it to be used by people of all age groups. I am friends with older family members. Overall, it doesn’t bother me that older family members are on Facebook, because I’m not putting anything on there that I would be ashamed for them to see.

  7. clangefe says:

    While I see the advantage of opening up Facebook to everyone, I must admit I do miss the days where it was meant for college kids only. I signed up for Facebook then and I honestly preferred it that way. While the addition of applications, fan pages and games are great, I still only use the site to keep up with friends and talk to classmates. That’s what Facebook intended in the first place, after all.

    I think it’s great that the Baby Boomer generation has hopped on the Facebook bandwagon and that they are becoming tech savvy, but I don’t personally have any relatives on my friend list. My Facebook account is pretty private and I don’t have a huge amount of friends because I like to keep it to people I actually talk to. My family is great, but they don’t need to be my friend online. Of course, my parents barely know what Facebook is, let alone use it, so I haven’t had to make that decision to befriend or not.

    Facebook can definitely be used by PR professionals, but I think it would be better to use a Facebook fan page instead of your personal account. It looks so much more professional and you don’t have to worry about whether to post photos from your vacation. Facebook allows professionals to connect with their audience and reach them in a whole new way.

  8. kpang says:

    Many of my elder family members have joined the Facebook world — it’s quite shocking to see my mom’s uncle pop up in the “People You May Know” sidebar on my home page (I haven’t seen my grandparents on Facebook…yet). I admit I was hesitant to accept my mom’s friend request and it definitely makes me think twice about what I post, which is a good thing.

    On the opposite end of baby boomers and grandparents jumping on the social networking bandwagon, I think it frightens me even more to see my 10-year-old cousins on Facebook, not because I’m worried about what they’ll see on my page, but about what they might be exposed to through other pages and other people who aren’t as conscious of the things they post. In the end, we should all be mindful of the things we post on Facebook, regardless of if you’re friends with your grandmother or younger cousin because you never know which of those 500 million people will catch sight of it.

    • alervin says:

      You raise a really good point about your 10-year-old cousin. It does prompt you to be more conscientious about what you post, but should children be on Facebook alongside adults? I had a friend request from a young second cousin, but I did not approve because I think children shouldn’t be social networking- they should be playing with each other, not chatting virtually.

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