Are the Rich Social?

Principal Consultant , David Allison Inc.
  • Oct. 17, 2009

I’ve noticed a change in the conversation about social media lately. Instead of asking if social media is actually effective as a marketing and branding tool, many of my real estate developer clients are asking if the wealthy are using these tools. “That’s all fine. I get that’s it’s a powerful tool,” they state. “But my target audience is wealthy boomers. They don’t use social media, do they?” So, I’ve done some poking around online. And here’s what I found out.

There is not a lot of supporting data yet about the habits of wealthy people as it relates to social media use. However, we can patch together insight from a variety of sources.

Major upscale brands that cater to the wealthy, and are slow and cautious in all they do, are using social media. One assumes they would stop if it wasn’t working. These social media savvy brands include: Cartier, Fiat, Mercedes Benz, Brooks Brothers, Sotheby’s, Gucci, Moet & Chandon and Patek Philippe. I’m sure there are others, too.

There are reports that suggest the wealthy spend more time online researching product purchase decisions. This makes sense to me, as they are more likely to use computers and information as part of their careers and daily routine; it’s a natural place for them to go. One of the happy side effects of a robust social media program is the increased visibility that social media provides; it makes your real estate development or listing easier to find. Social media increases the volume of information available online about your project, and so propels you closer to the top of the search engine rankings. Simply put, social media will increase your visibility even if your audience is not using social media…you will just be easier to find online by anyone, including the wealthy boomers you are looking to attract.

There are stats specific to the boomer audience for one of the most popular social media channels, Facebook. The number of boomers on Facebook has doubled in the last quarter, with roughly 20% of all Facebook users now over the age of 45. In Canada that means roughly 2.4 million Facebook users (more than watch a good hockey game on CBC) are boomers. That’s a lot of boomers in one place, and a good portion of them are going to be wealthy, by default. If you could buy ad space in a magazine that had 2.4 million Canadian baby boomer readers for a few dollars, would you? I think you would, especially when you look at how much it costs to buy ad space in the Globe & Mail, Canada’s self-proclaimed “National Newspaper”, which has less than a third as many weekday readers as Facebook.

Here are some other statistics from a variety of research reports that support the notion that increasingly, the wealthy are on social media platforms:

– 24% of wealthy Internet users — almost one in four — are joining teens and twenty-somethings on social networking sites such as Facebook and MySpace. Of this group, 69% maintain a profile on at least one site.

– 72% of wealthy Web surfers aged 45 to 54 said they read blogs, compared with 69% of those aged 18 to 44 who said they do.

– A national sample of 805 wealthy American consumers, with an average income of $287K and average net worth of $2.1 million, was surveyed online. Survey results are weighted to match demographic and net worth profiles of the same audience according to the latest Survey of Consumer Finances from The Federal Reserve. The participation of wealthy online consumers in social networks dramatically increased to 60 percent in 2008, from 27 percent in 2007. Survey respondents average membership in 2.8 social networks, with an average of 110 connections.

– According to research data from Agency Sacks in conjunction with the Affluence Collaborative, of those with household income of $250,000 and over, or investable assets of $2 million plus, more than 52 percent are on Facebook and 68 percent visit the site regularly. 30 percent are on LinkedIn, and 11 percent are on Twitter.

According to a recent survey from the Luxury Institute, a full 76% of wealthy Americans are reading blogs. That is up from 57% in the 2005 study. Also interesting is that more wealthy Americans are writing blogs themselves (24%), up from 18% in 2005. Compare that with the median income Americans and it is clear that those with more money appear to be more interested in technological advances. According to the report, only 25% of the general American population read blogs and only 9% maintain their own blogs.

These sample stats from a variety of reports don’t all agree with each other and add up to 100%, and most are US-based, but it’s fairly easy to draw a simple broad-strokes conclusion here. Are wealthy boomers using social media? More and more they are not only using these tools, but are responsible for a significant portion of the sector’s growth.

If you are targeting wealthy boomers (and rare is the real estate development who isn’t these days) you need to be reaching out through social media. It’s not a silver bullet, but if well done it stands a good chance of working, in an environment where not a lot of other tools do.



David Allison works with executive teams in real estate development and other industries to craft the early-stage vision and brand for projects of all kinds. He crystallizes the most interesting…

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David Allison works with executive teams in real estate development and other industries to craft the early-stage vision and brand for projects of all kinds. He crystallizes the most interesting…

Read more




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