U.K.'s Biggest Social Media Fans: The Middle Aged

People ages 55 to 64 drove increase in social media profiles last year, says Ofcom study. One in seven U.K. citizens still isn't interested in the Internet, though.
8 LinkedIn Etiquette Mistakes
8 LinkedIn Etiquette Mistakes
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The biggest adopters of social media in the U.K. aren't teens -- the usual suspects -- but their middle- aged parents. But late Baby Boomer converts might need to know that obtaining a digital identity is not a panacea, especially when it comes to employment.

Sixty-four percent of British adult Internet users said they had a social networking profile, up from 2011's 59%, said communications watchdog Ofcom Wednesday. Driving that growth are users ages 55-64, 35% of whom now have online profiles of some sort, markedly up from the previous year's 24%. "There has been no significant growth among any other age group since 2011," said the study, adding that 72% of those with a profile claim to visit social networking websites at least daily, half more than once a day, and nearly 10% checking in more than 10 times a day.

Younger Brits are still more wired than their older peers, though. On average, U.K. adults with a social networking profile have 237 friends or contacts on their main social networking domain, while those age 16-24 claimed to have 352 friends. That figure drops to 161 in the 35-44 age bracket, and to just 126 among those over 45.

[ Will lack of access to the Internet hurt people later? Read Digital Government May Exclude 4 Million U.K. Citizens. ]

Unfortunately for older adults hoping to use their newfound digital prowess to snag a new career, online services might not be all they're cracked up to be.

Take LinkedIn, where profiles are supposed to help job seekers increase their online visibility and build a professional profile. A new survey by recruiter Robert Half UK of 200 U.K. chief financial officers suggests that 82% "question the trustworthiness and accuracy of a potential candidate's LinkedIn profile." More than two thirds (68%) said they found the information only "sometimes" reliable and 14% said "never". Thirty-nine percent expressed concern about the opportunity job seekers have to exaggerate their experience and skills on the popular business network.

On the bright side for older workers, when asked what they wanted to see in a LinkedIn profile, nearly two thirds said experience was the most important, with references (38%) and educational background (37%) a close second and third. Interestingly, it's larger and publicly listed companies (at 78% and 72% respectively) who value LinkedIn experience information most.

Still, the Robert Half respondents complained that sites like LinkedIn lack a way to qualify profile information (37%). Perhaps it's no surprise then that this group said direct applications were "much more trustworthy" as a source of possible hires.

Other key findings of the Ofcom report include:

-- 53% of U.K. adults now use a mobile phone to go online, rising to 86% among smartphone users, and more than one in 10 use a tablet computer (16%), games console/player (16%), or a portable media player (12%), "all significant increases since 2011."

-- Smartphone ownership among U.K. adults rose from 44% to 54% in 2011, with the fastest growth in the age bracket of 16-24 (up 15%), but with significant growth also seen among the 35-44 group (up 13%) and those ages 55-64 (up 11%).

-- One in seven U.K. adults still do not have an Internet connection at home -- and do not intend to get access in the next 12 months, a level of disinterest unchanged since 2011. "The reasons most often cited for not intending to get the Internet continue to be "lack of interest" (85%), followed by cost (23%) and reasons relating to availability, such as not having a computer (19%).