By Alice Hartnett,

It’s no surprise that social networking has become a global phenomenon. A 22-nation survey from the Pew Global Attitudes Project finds that in regions around the world, people who use the Internet are using it for social networking. But how people use social networking and participate in online activites varies by generation.

A recent Generations 2010 report by the Pew Internet & American Life Project examines certain differences in online engagement by demographics.  Here are some highlights of the report:

  1. Milliennials (ages 18-33) remain more likely to access the Internet wirelessly with a laptop or mobile phone.
  2. Gen X (ages 34-45) and older consumers are more likely than Millennials to engage in several online activities, including visiting government websites and getting financial information online.
  3. The fastest growth in Internet users has come from those age 74 and older.

One of the biggest findings in this report is that while groups differ in their online activities there are certain uses that are becoming popular across all age groups. These online activities include seeking health information, purchasing products, making travel reservations, and downloading podcasts.

Other trends in online activities included in the report:

  1. The percentage of all adult internet users who watch video online jumped 14 points in the past two years, from 52% in May 2008 to 66% in May 2010.
  2. Fifty-one percent of all online adults listen to music online, compared with 34% the last time this question was asked, in June 2004. While Millennials used to be by far the most avid listeners, Gen Xers and Younger Boomers are catching up.
  3. As of May 2010, 53% of online adults have used a classified ads website such as Craigstlist, up from 32% in September 2007.

Why does this matter to your business? Social networking can be a useful marketing tool for businesses to reach customers, promote products and services and recruit new employees. Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn are huge swimming pools for businesses, and can be particularly useful for businesses that dive in with a thoughtful social media strategy in place.

With that in mind, check out Inc. for tips on using social networking sites to drive traffic to your business. You might find that it’s time for your business to jump in the social pool.

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