This past year has seen two important developments in the world of social media. Its users are getting older, and the media content is increasingly being accessed from mobile devices such as smartphones and tablets.
Social media has often been thought of as a platform for young people. But the demographics are quickly changing. For instance, the fastest-growing group of Twitter users is aged 55-64, while Facebook and Google+ see the most growth from the 45 to 54-year-old cohort.
The development of an older audience – who likely have different views than those held by their younger counterparts – may create more robust discussions on social media, and a more vibrant public sphere. The major social networks themselves may adjust to accommodate their changing user base, and new, niche networks may arise to appeal to these older users.
Many smaller social networks, such as Instagram and Snapchat, still have very young user bases. But as they become more mainstream, they too will begin to become more broadly representative of the public at large.
Meanwhile, social media has seen the future, and the future is mobile. There are more smartphones in the world than computers today, and this trend shows no sign of abating. In the past, desktop versions of Facebook or Twitter were updated before or at the same time as their mobile app counterparts. That’s changed. In 2013, both of the biggest social networks put mobile first, and mobile apps often boasted exclusive functionality not found on their desktop counterparts.
The switch to mobile will have major ramifications on the type of information shared on these networks. Content created or shared from mobile devices is often more up-to-date, more likely to be original and can include additional attributes such as geo-location. The dominance of mobile devices will likely lead to more content being created, consumed, and shared by other mobile users. In short: made by mobile, for mobile.
The message is clear: You are most likely reading this on your smartphone or tablet. You are also probably a little older than you think the average person reading this would be.
Follow Rami Khater on Twitter: @ramisms