Report: How to market to each generation on social media

Different generations have widely different online habits. One report highlights the most important facts about successfully targeting each group.

Do you ever wonder if marketers are too preoccupied with millennials to think about generational nuances on social media?

There are other generations out there apart from millennials.

Consider Generation X. Social media works on us too, you know!

According to the Q1 2017 Sprout Social Index:

  • Seven in 10 Generation Xers will likely purchase something from a brand they follow.
  • Sixty-four percent of Generation Xers use Facebook regularly.
  • Generation Xers are twice as likely to follow a brand on social media as Baby Boomers.

The Sprout report is filled with statistics on millennials, Generation Xers and Baby Boomers. Below are some statistics to underscore the generational nuances every social media marketer should know.

Millennials (ages 18-34)

Juiciest statistics from the report:

  • Thirty percent of millennials engage with a brand on social media at least once a month.
  • Fifty-eight percent follow a brand before purchasing its products.
  • Millennials are twice as likely as any other generation to use social media (rather than phone or email) to communicate with a brand.
  • Thirty-eight percent of millennials follow brands for entertainment.

Biggest takeaway: Millennials are more willing to split their time across a range of online communities as opposed to being loyal to one platform.

What this means for you: It’s challenging—if not impossible—to maintain an active presence on every social network. If your target audience includes millennials, Sprout Social makes these suggestions:

1. Identify a growth audience that makes sense for your brand.

2. Be clear on your goals and why you’re trying to reach this audience.

3. Create a strategy for one of the social networks your target group prefers.

4. Adjust your strategy based on results.

So, if you test Snapchat and get good results, plan to stay there. If not, test another channel. (Remember that 35 percent of Snapchat users like the platform because content disappears. This poses yet another marketing challenge.)

Generation Xers (ages 34-54)

Juiciest statistics from the report:

  • Facebook is 54 percent more popular among Generation X than YouTube.
  • Generation Xers are more likely to follow a brand for contests, deals and promotions.
  • Generation Xers are nearly 160 percent more likely than other generations to unfollow a brand that says something offensive or contrary to their personal beliefs.
  • Thirty-two percent of Generation Xers engage with a brand they follow every month.

Biggest takeaway: Nearly seven in 10 Generation Xers will likely purchase something from a brand they follow.

What this means for you: Just because each generation might follow a brand’s Facebook page or Instagram profile before making a purchase doesn’t mean they’re seeking the same content. Because Generation Xers are easily offended, edit humor and entertainment posts with an eagle eye.

Additionally, give Generation Xers contests, deals and promotions. Use tools like ShortStack and Wyng, or reveal “a whisper word” (like “awesome sauce”) on your Facebook page, and tell your audience that they can use that word at checkout to get a deal.

Baby Boomers (ages 55+)

Juiciest statistics from the report:

  • Baby Boomers are looking for a mix of deals and information.
  • YouTube is Baby Boomers’ second favorite social media platform.
  • Fifty-one percent of Baby Boomers will likely make a purchase from a brand they follow.

Biggest takeaway: Baby Boomers are mainly lurkers; only 14 percent regularly interact with brands.

What this means for you: The “think conversation, not campaign” style of thinking won’t get you very far with Baby Boomers.

On the pages I manage where the audience is 55+, there’s very little engagement and dialogue. However, deeper metrics (like clicks) show that the audience is looking at what I post. The two biggest wins I’ve seen with Baby Boomers are:

1. Appealing to their need for information with a “Did You Know?” series that fosters informational growth with pithy stats or little-known facts.

2. Using contests and promotions to activate lurkers.

Other generational nuances

It’s important to consider your current audience’s demographic makeup as well as your desired audience’s demographic makeup when creating content for your social media pages.

As Sprout concludes in the report,

“For your social marketing efforts to be successful, audience demographic data is essential. In order to give your audience what they want, you need to understand who they are and what they’re looking for first. On Facebook, your brand’s audience makeup might look drastically different than it does on Pinterest. Your social content strategy, publishing patterns and brand messaging should reflect that difference. Your marketing strategy needs to be cohesive—not definitive.”

Read the full report here.

How do you deal with generational nuances and challenges? Let us know in the comments section.

Brooke B. Sellas is a digital marketer and owner at B Squared Media, blossoming blogger and a purveyor of psychographics. Her mantra is “Think Conversation, Not Campaign” so be sure to give her a shout on Twitter. A version of this article originally appeared on Mark Schaefer’s blog.

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