Law firms dismissing social networking as an effective means of enhancing relationships with their clients, prospective clients, and referral sources because they don’t these folks use online social networks ought to think again.

Social networking use (LinkedIn and Facebook) among internet users ages 50 and older nearly doubled—from 22% in April 2009 to 42% in May 2010 pursuant to a survey by the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project.

Mary Madden, Senior Research Specialist and author of the report explained “Young adults continue to be the heaviest users of social media, but their growth pales in comparison with recent gains made by older users.”

I’m routinely asked to meet with law firms to discuss the principles of social networking and social media and how they may be applied to business development. Lawyers and legal marketing professionals find what I offer enlightening and intriguing. But nine times out of ten they’ll nod in agreement when someone in the firm assuredly says our target audience doesn’t use social networking – our audience is older.

The assumption that your clients, prospective clients, and referral sources don’t use social networking because they’re too old has no basis in fact. Look at the stats from the Pew survey.

  • Social networking use among internet users ages 50-64 grew by 88%–from 25% to 47%–in the last year.
  • Use among those ages 65 and older grew 100%–from 13% to 26%.
  • 61% of internet users ages 30-49 use social networking, up from 25% two years ago.

The below graph further highlights the rate of growth in the use of social media by those in the age group likely to be leading American businesses and accumulating wealth.

Look also where your target demographic age group is spending their time on line each day.

  • 39% of internet users ages 30 to 49 are using social networking sites (Facebook and LinkedIn) daily.
  • 10% of this same age group are using Twitter daily.

And don’t be so quick to dismiss these figures on the belief that your clients and prospective clients fall in the majority who don’t use social networking and social media on a daily basis. As I’ve blogged before, it doesn’t matter if your clients/prospective clients use Facebook, LinkedIn, Twitter, or blogs. Their influencers (bloggers, reporters, association leaders, conference coordinators, and publishers) do.

It’s a new day folks. Don’t be insular by limiting your discussion on social networking and social media to those in your law firm. Law firms are notorious for talking down the innovative. Lawyers tend to be experts on everything. Look around you at what leading businesses are doing. Read the studies. Read the business articles.

Social networking and social media is not only here to stay, it’s use among your target audience is exploding.