From #MillennialPink to the current obsession with Rosé and unicorns, the Millennial generation (aged 18-34) currently gets the most attention from brands and marketers on social media. However, the recent rise in GenX (34-54) and Baby Boomers (55+) as an attractive and fast-growing social media cohort means that marketers should take note, not only of the platforms preferred by each generation, but the key distinctions and similarities between the generations and their social media preferences.
Market opportunity is large. In 2015 alone, social networks earned $8.3 billion from advertising with 2.3 billion active social media users in the world.
Successfully marketing to users on social media requires an understanding that each generation has shared interests with specific expectations, ideals and life experiences that influence their behavior.
Platform Preferences by Generation
Knowing what social platforms are resonating with your generational audience is key. Recent data from the Pew Research Center shows that Facebook remains king across generations.
Baby Boomers, aged 55+, are the only generation on this list that did not grow up (or spend the majority of their life) with technology. According to Small Biz Trends, Boomers tend to stick to the “original” methods of social, which is why it is no surprise that Facebook is their preferred social network.
Many brands assume that because Boomers are not digital natives, they should be ignored on social. This is a myth that should be quickly debunked. Baby Boomers control 70% of all disposable income in the United States, making them a key generation to hit for optimal spending power. An important recommendation from Adweek, though, is to pay attention to when you post content taregting Baby Boomers – early to late morning, 5 am to noon, is their optimal social surfing time.
Snapchat is a seemingly unexpected great place to target GenX. The cohort has 5.9 million active members and growing. Looking for the perfect time to post for GenX? They are night owls – according to Yahoo, the best time to reach them is between 7 pm and 11 pm, not too different from the millennial peak hours of 8 pm to midnight.
Millennials more actively split their time between platforms, and tend to be early adopters, championing newer platforms like Snapchat and Instagram. Their preference for platforms like Snapchat and Instagram adds credence to the theory that Millennials have a shorter attention span than a goldfish. A key takeaway? The millennial generation is used to technology at their fingertips and they don’t want to have to dig too deeply for information.
Tip: Because millennials tend to split their time across various social platforms, targeting a millennial audience can be difficult. Dive deeper to understand what works for your brand or brand segment. For example, beauty brands tend to do well on YouTube, Pinterest and Instagram, where influencers share tips and tricks. Travel brands, particularly those with a customer service component, may do better with real time response on Twitter. Test what works with your desired generation, remembering that Facebook is key for ALL generations, and stick with what works.
Generational Brand Engagement Via Social Media
Millennials are the most likely generation to engage with a brand via social. This can be an advantage for brands, giving them a chance to reach their audience where they are spending a majority of their time, according to Neilsen.
Interestingly, the generation that spends the MOST time on social media isn’t the millennial generation. According to Neilsen, GenX spends the most time on social media. GenX spends almost 7 hours per week on social, squeaking past millennials who typically spend just over 6 hours per week.
Turning Social into Business
If you’re looking to turn social into business, look to Gen X, which makes up 200 billion in annual buying power, according to Small Biz Trends. According to Neilsen, 39% of users believe going to social for information about products is an important reason for using social media, while 35% of heavy social “stalkers” say they visit social media for discounts, exclusive offers, coupons and contests.
Hitting ALL of these generations at the same time may seem like a difficult task, but with a keen eye on your audience and smart goals, you will be navigating generational preferences on social media like a champ in no time.
Is your brand hitting the right demographics?