Will Executives Over 50 Ever Get Social Media?

by Ryon Harms on October 8, 2009

Forbes Insights, in association with Google, surveyed 354 top executives at large (annual sales greater than $1 billion) corporations to understand how they use the Internet to gather information. A clear generational gap emerged, especially when it comes to social media tools like blogs and Twitter.

Here are some of the major findings:

A generational shift is occurring in the C-suite that is transforming how they use the Internet. Executives who came of business age with the rise of the personal computer—typically those between the ages of 40 and 50—are now assuming leadership positions in corporate America. These executives access information more frequently than previous executives, see greater value in emerging Internet technologies, and are willing to retrieve information in different ways, such as via video or through a mobile device.

The Internet is the C-suite’s top information resource. Executives find it more valuable for locating business related information than references from colleagues, personal networks, newspapers and magazines, TV and radio, and conferences and trade shows.

Members of the C-suite search for information themselves. While delegating research may be part of the stereotype of a C-level executive, it is not the reality. More than half of C-level respondents said they prefer to locate information themselves, making them more self-sufficient in their information gathering than non-C-suite executives.

Video and online networks are emerging as C-suite tools. While text is still the preferred format for receiving information, streaming video, webcasts, and similar formats are increasing in prevalence, especially among executives under 50. Similarly, although most executives prefer personal contacts, they are increasingly willing to network and seek advice through online communities.

Executives under 40 are the most willing to engage with emerging Internet technologies such as blogs, wikis, Twitter, mobile computing, and online social networks. According to the report, 58% of executives under 40 maintain a work-related blog daily (35%) or several times a week (21%). According to the report that figure drops to 35% among those 40-49 followed by a precipitous drop to only 5% for executives over 50.

I’d like to know what exactly is holding back executives over 50 from utilizing social media. Is it that they feel like the technology is too difficult to learn, or is it that they simply and actually don’t see the value in it?

I believe it’s a frame of mind that can be overcome, not a technological deficiency.

What do you think?

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