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How to Manage the Social Media Generational Gap

Angeline Rast
21 March 2019

Contrary to common belief that social media is a preserve of the younger generation, marketers can no longer turn a blind eye to older adults who have in recent years adopted the use of various social media platforms. In this regard, it would help to digest how and for what reasons the different demographics engage in various platforms, and why marketers should pay keen attention to the latest social media trends.

Various social media channels and key generational differences

While Facebook remains the most popular platform for social interactions and marketing purposes, younger people consider other channels like WhatsApp, Snapchat, Instagram, Pinterest, Periscope, Tumblr, etc. to be newer and cooler, save for sharing a platform with either parents or grandparents! While the older people are pressing forward to catch up with technological advancements, the younger ones look determined to keep trying new gadgets and improved platforms, and only time will tell how long the cat and mouse game will last.

To the younger generation, attractions revolve around photo-sharing apps, because their attention is largely caught by visuals. With a lot of free time and energy at their disposal, they have a lot of hours to spend online on a daily basis, taking selfies and sharing them for likes and comments, and nothing more. Of course, there are young people using online platforms for commercial purposes, but they are only but a handful.

On the contrary, those over 30 years have limited time and resources to frequently use various social media applications, for the simple reason that they are struggling to balance their careers, family life, further studies, mortgages, investments, and so on. To catch up with updates or happenings, they must quickly scan through the pages during lunch breaks or later in the evenings, save for a couple of free office hours in the afternoons, and even then it’s only for a few minutes.

According to a study by Pew Research Centre, social media platforms have become the remedy for loneliness and depression, with 71% of those over 65 using the internet on a daily basis to keep in touch with their dear ones who are far off or catching up with long-time friends. Additionally, seniors’ use of the internet seems to incline more towards informational and educational aspects. As the older generation become homebound, Facebook and Skype prove more relevance for reaching the outside world, while Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter bring value for business and professional engagements. Privacy concerns, therefore, explains why the elderly are only drawn to birds of the same feathers. For instance, they use it to seek information on various life and health issues and to connect with others experiencing the same challenges. A wise marketer – maybe in the pharmaceutical industry – would really benefit by setting up social media pages to gain leads from this demographic.

To this end, computer classes for seniors have grown in popularity, as the elderly acquaint themselves in use of desktops, laptops, tablets, email, and other social media channels. Such centres include DorotUSA.org and the Washington Jewish Council for the Aging. According to a recent study out of England and Italy involving 120 seniors aged 65 and above, technological training of seniors comes with a host of benefits, including cognitive development and improved physical vitality. Perhaps out of this realization, a study of Dutch citizens revealed that in 2016 the older generation grew in use of social media platforms, as well as according to education levels.

Reaching out to each generation

The paradox of marketing is that both groups are important. While real disposable income largely belongs to those over 30, the teenagers and those in their twenties form a broad base for the future of purchasing power, and as such must not be left behind. With more than 2 billion online users logging into various social media channels on a daily basis, care must be taken to tap into the habits and preferences of different generations, precisely noting their most preferred platforms and ways of engagement. This way, it will be possible to monitor their online spending and appropriately channel funds for advertisement. According to an infographic from WebPage FX, stats indicate that more than $8 billion went into social media advertisements in 2015, the projection for 2017 stands at more than $35 billion. This is space to watch.

Conclusion

Social media platforms present online marketers with a host of opportunities for people of all ages. The dynamic potential of these markets calls for consistency and understanding where goals and interests meet or depart and then act proactively.

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