Recently, I was a victim of ‘Parent Shaming via Facebook’. My darling Mother took it upon herself to share a picture of the guy I had only very recently started seeing. She has never met him.  I thought for sure, that was it, I was going to have to move somewhere where they don’t have access to social media to overcome the humiliation and also find a new romantic prospect as surely that would have scared any potential boyfriends off. Anyway, through some bizarre twist of fate, I survived and it got me thinking about how many other parents and ‘baby boomers’ were out there ruining their children’s love lives on a daily basis.

All jokes aside, the speed of which older people (as we will call them) are jumping on social media is unreal. According to a recent report by Pew Research Centre, social networking among people aged 50 plus has almost doubled from 22% to 42% in the period of only one year. More specifically, the proportion of over 65’s using sites such as Facebook rose by 50%.* Organizations working with golden oldies found that social media provided a place to connect with friends and family allowing them to keep in touch regardless of distance. Silver Surfers are using it for their own unique purposes as well, such as seeking out health information and connecting with other people suffering similar challenges. For many these networks play an important role in reducing feelings of loneliness and isolation.

How does this impact us as advertisers?

As I’ve already demonstrated it is clear how this affects us at a personal level but how can it apply in an advertising sense? Typically, as Media Planners we tend to pigeon hole most digital channels, especially of the social media variety as ‘Millennial’ or ‘Gen Y’ only environments and often sub-consciously disregard them as viable options for communicating to the ever growing population of over 65’s. However, recent trends reveal that while nine out of ten people below the age of 35 are on social media, figures for younger users have plateaued, suggesting that previous assumptions about age and media use may be incorrect. Based on a quick look into Facebook’s power editor, the audience potential for people aged 60+ in New Zealand is 380,000. Broaden this to ‘Baby Boomers’ and ‘Generation X’ and the audience pool expands to 1 million. Not only is this demographic existing online but they have a lot of money.  Those aged 65+ control 31% of net worth in New Zealand* and those aged 50+ control an estimated 65% of disposable income^.

This surprisingly super savvy demographic are proving that social media is no longer necessarily the domain of just us millennials. For Facebook in particular the ‘mature’ market is the fastest growing category with the influential older female group (aka my Mum) being one of the most heavily engaged…shocking. In short, we should be taking more time to consider social media as a legitimate option in targeting and communicating with this older age group.

How to talk to them

Older users have slightly different social media experiences in comparison to us ‘digital natives,’ therefore when executing advertising campaigns targeted to this group this should be taken into consideration. For example, not all platforms are experiencing the same growth in popularity as Facebook. Don’t get me wrong, while there are definitely some “Insta-Grans” out there, Twitter, Snapchat and Instagram are generally still uncharted waters for the senior citizen. On the other hand, Pinterest is on the rise as is YouTube. Both are highly visual in their content with video having the capability to evoke emotion and captivate ageing audiences who have a higher propensity to watch content through to the end in comparison to younger users. Many older users are also more time-rich having retired or reduced their work load. Combine this with the tight targeting possibilities on Google and you can easily see how social media when employed in a well thought out campaign can successfully communicate to this group of consumers.

Top tips for reaching the Savvy Seniors

  • Consider whether social media is in fact the appropriate environment for the brand, product or service. It’s not going to be the right choice every time so make sure the decision to use it is justified.
  • Use content such as images and video that the audience is likely to consume and engage with. Also make sure that the font is large enough so that our older friends can read it with ease.
  • If you want them to click through to a website or take further action make navigating as straightforward as possible. This includes landing pages that are specific and “senior friendly.”

Carry out trials or A/B tests to see how creative, targeting etc affects results and adjust accordingly.

Start including social media on your senior-targeted schedules

It’s not new information that we are currently experiencing an acceleration in ageing population, therefore ignoring this significantly sized group of consumers, who generally have a lot of spare time and/or money, would be a massive mistake for any brand. By the time the current ‘baby boomer’ generation reaches retirement society will have created the most computer literate group of grandparents than ever before. Don’t miss out on this market simply by making outdated assumptions of their media use.

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