When it comes to how Americans get their information, television, family and friends still trump social media.
Sure, social media is growing faster than anyone could have imagined. Nearly one billion people have created accounts on Facebook, and millions more are scattered across the social media landscape, that doesn’t mean social media is their only network.
In fact, as the latest research shows, many people use social media to augment their information network, not replace it. They still rely on traditional forms of information networks, gossip from friends and family, and television, as their reliable news source.
This is not meant to show that social media fails to engage people. This also says nothing about the fact that social media is just a scant few years old and has yet to even come close to its prime. It only shows where folks are with it right this second.
I would expect this demographic to change as time goes on, leaving more traditional forms of information gathering, slowly yet inexorably, in the dust.
Despite the growing popularity of social media as means of engaging with causes today, younger Americans still look to personal communication with friends and family as well as traditional media when learning about and telling others about causes. New findings from the Dynamics of Cause Engagement study show that while Generation Y is significantly more likely than its older counterparts to utilize social media to learn about causes, more than 4 in 10 Americans age 18-29 still get their information from family (48%), friends (46%) and TV (45%). The survey was conducted among adults age 18 and over in late 2010 by Georgetown University’s Center for Social Impact Communication and Ogilvy Public Relations Worldwide, and explored overall trends in cause involvement and the roles of a variety of activities and tools in fostering engagement with social issues.
Offline Exchange Still Vital
Face-to-face, offline conversations appear to still be the way information about causes is most often relayed among Americans of all generations, according to survey data. Nearly two-thirds of Americans (62%) report that being told in person is the way they are typically informed of causes and social issues in which others want them to be involved. Even among generations Y (ages 18 to 29) and X (ages 30 to 45), who are significantly more likely than older generations to report being sent messages or invitations via social media or text messaging, more than half (56% and 59%, respectively) report this face-to-face engagement.
Social Media: Beliefs vs. Actions
Americans are in agreement that they can make a difference by supporting causes; however, they disagree in their perception of the extent to which social media can help accomplish this. When it comes to showing support for causes, generations X and Y subscribe more readily than Baby Boomers (ages 46 to 60) and the Silent Generation (age 61 and over) to the beliefs that social networking sites like Facebook help increase visibility for causes and help them get the word out about causes more easily. Generations X and Y also are significantly more likely to report that they would support a cause online rather than offline (36% and 37%, respectively).
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