No matter how you slice the demographics, young people hold a lot of sway on social media. They influence social conversation, establish trends, and tend to help social sites thrive when they show up in large numbers. Part of this is the power of numbers. According to Pew Research, 82 percent of US adults age 18-29 actively use Facebook, though the 65+ demographic is no slouch at 48 percent. However a recent study highlighted by MediaPost suggests that one in three young social media users qualify as influencers.
While this result likely doesn’t come as a surprise, I don’t think it tells the whole story. Yes, young people often have the digital skills to carve out roles as influencers, but age is just a small part of the overall equation.
The easy thing to miss with studies like this, especially based on the headlines that accompany them, is that young people don’t succeed on social just because they are young. Youth is not a prerequisite for success, and social is fluid enough that demographics are hardly set in stone. Everyone has influence on social, and being “old” is hardly a roadblock to building a devoted audience.
Don’t get me wrong—being young doesn’t hurt. One of the biggest reasons that young people find success on social is that it’s always been part of their digital lives. Even on the upper end of the 18-34 demographic, you’ve got people who didn’t start using Facebook and Twitter until their mid-twenties. For the youngest people in that group, social was simply a part of growing up. That deep level of familiarity—and the built-in audience of peers that comes with it—certainly comes in handy when working to build influence.
The MediaPost study points out something interesting, however, in how young people wield that influence. The brands that young people partner with tend to cluster in tech, fashion and entertainment, but the real takeaway is that carving out a niche is critical to building influence with any age group. If a person demonstrates passion and knowledge within their sphere of influence, they’re much more likely to gain traction with people who share their interests.