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Fail: “Social Networking For Grown-Ups”

tbd-logoMy old man really digs Facebook. Days after opening an account, he started a group for his high school classmates and reconnected with college pals. Any time I visit my parents, he posts and tags the pictures. He comments on my best friends’ status updates.

So it doesn’t surprise me that TeeBeeDee, a social network designed exclusively for older folks, is shutting down by July 13. In a note on the site, founder Robin Wolaner said TeeBeeDee “lacked the resources to continue developing the product to meet the needs of our community.”

Translation: The site needs money, but it’s not generating revenue and no investors want to sink more money into it. PaidContent noted that the site, which was riding on $9 million in venture capital, only drew 70,000 unique visitors last month.

It’s not that “grown-ups,” as TeeBeeDee called its user base, aren’t interested in social networking. The New York Times reported in March that females 55 and older are the fastest-growing segment of Facebook, leaping in membership by 175 percent since last fall. Men over age 55 were in second place, increasing their numbers by 138 percent during the same period. The Times story is otherwise packed with anecdotes like the one I described about my dad.

So why would this crowd rather hang out on Facebook than TeeBeeDee? Certainly, word of mouth plays a role. While a niche site like TeeBeeDee has to market itself, Facebook’s userbase practically does that job on its own, be it through friends, family or stories in the media.

But even if more people knew about TeeBeeDee, I’m not sure it would succeed. After all, isn’t social networking on a Boomers-only Web site kind of like checking into a retirement home? It’s just more fun to mingle with everyone you know, even if they aren’t all grown-ups yet.