Kids’ stuff? I don’t think so.

Think social networks are only good for recruiting undergraduate students?  Think again. 

Conventional wisdom indicates that professional networking sites like LinkedIn are where adults spend their time while sites like Facebook and MySpace are where the kids hang out.  This may be true to a certain extent, however, Karine Joly points out an interesting study today from the Pew Internet and American Life Project that finds adults are rapidly buying into the non-professional social networks, and it may make some higher education recruiters rethink how they approach the social web. 

Here are some stats that Joly highlights:

  • 75% of our college crowd, young adults aged 18-24 have a profile (no big scoop here, but always nice to have some recent data, don’t you think?), 57% of online adults 25-34, 30% of online adults 35-44
  • In February 2005, just 2% of adult internet users had visited an online social network “yesterday” while 19% of adult internet users had done so in December 2008.
  • Social network users are also more likely to be students — 68% of full time students and 71% of part-time students have a social network profile, while just 28% of adults who are not students use social networks.

  • Nearly one third 31% of online white adults have a social networking profile, compared with 43% of African-Americans and 48% of Hispanics.
  • So, where are those networking adults?
    • 50% of adult social network users have a profile on MySpace
    • 22% have a profile on Facebook
    • 6% have a profile on LinkedIn

Now, demographics can only tell you so much. Context also matters quite a bit. For example, professional networking sites like LinkedIn are a natural fit for graduate and executive education programs looking for motivated participants seeking to advance their careers. 

However, as Facebook users mature and expand their networks beyond their circle of friends sites like Facebook have the potential to turn into powerful professional networking tools as well. LinkedIn’s appeal amongst professional networkers is one of the reasons why so many MBA and executive programs have begun to advertise there. What if Facebook begins to attract a similar crowd? Some have already noted that Facebook may indeed have LinkedIn in its crosshairs.

Certainly worth keeping an eye on. The lines between social networking and professional networking are beginning to blur.  Quite simply, it’s not just for undergrad anymore.