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Old now gold for the internet

Betty Ross is 84. She likes knitting, reggae, Jamie Foxx, and supports the “Free Flights Home for Military Members” movement on Facebook.

Almost daily she comments on posts and updates, Likes photos and, from her home in Falmouth, Maine, connects with her family in Australia with ease.

She re-posts humorous videos from msnbc.msn.com and is a hugely active member of the Today Show’s Facebook fan page. How do I know this?

For starters, she is my great aunt, but she is also one of my most active friends, commentator and general all-around champion on Facebook. She is not alone. The demographic make-up of the web’s most popular social networking sites is rapidly changing. Today, more than ever, older internet users are flocking to social sites to join in the conversation.

A recent study from social media specialists Flowtown showed the most significant growth among these sites in the past several years has been adults aged 50 years and older.

The study, which looked at Twitter, Facebook, MySpace and LinkedIn, went on to note that 26% of internet users aged 60-plus are using social networking sites. For my great aunt, Facebook is an entrenched part of the way she lives her life and communicates with the world.

But it also represents a major challenge for marketers in the coming years – that is moving from the old model of shock and awe towards a new level of engaging customers online. This month we’ve sought to dedicate much of the issue to how social media is changing your business and why it should challenge your thinking.

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