Social Media for Every Generation
The generational divide in social media is real. Learn how each generation uses social media and how to best market to them.
Over 70% of the US population with internet access also has an active social media account. Social media is mainstream and it’s no longer just about building relationships with friends and family. Social media has morphed into a space where users connect with brand and influencers, conduct research, share content, and even purchase products.
Depending on your age, your relationship and use of social media will vary dramatically. Social media platforms hold very different values depending on when you were first exposed to this medium.
Depending on who you ask the dates may vary slightly, but for the most part, the generations fall into these timelines:
Baby Boomers: 1946 – 1964
Generation X: 1965 – 1979
Millennials: 1980 – 1995
Gen Z: 1996 onwards
This post breaks down how these different generations interact with social media.
“Boomers” are now the oldest generation in the workforce. This generation did not have access to social media until they were already well into building their careers. While social media adoption rates are growing within this generation, there is a still a reluctance to fully embrace social media platforms the same way as younger generations. This is especially true when it comes to mixing their personal and professional lives.
82% of Boomers who use the internet also have at least one social media account. Their platforms of choice are Facebook and LinkedIn which neatly split their work and personal lives. Baby Boomers are less likely to use other social media platforms like Twitter and Instagram. They are also less likely to have multiple social media profiles.
This generation generally lacks the technical proficiency and understanding of the nuanced differences when posting on different platforms, but they have embraced social media for communication and research. Baby Boomers are 19% more likely to share content compared to any other generation. They are the least likely to access social media from a smartphone or make a purchase through an app.
Besides sharing content about their families on Facebook and searching for information on LinkedIn, 54% of Boomers watch video content. Adoption rates for Baby Boomers are continuing to increase as their comfort with social media grows.
When marketing to this generation on social, it is important to remember they have a clear work/life divide, they like to reshare interesting content, and prefer to use social media as one of their many information resources.
Anyone born between 1965 and 1979 is considered to be part of Generation X. This generation now holds the majority of business leadership positions and despite their small total size relative to the entire population, their purchasing power now accounts for 31% of the total U.S. income.
When discussing social media usage, many are surprised that this generation uses social media more habitually than Millennials. Gen X’ers are often overlooked despite the fact (according to a Nielsen report) they spend an average of 6 hours 58 minutes a week on social media networks.
This generation was quick to adopt social media, but unlike Millennials they did not inherit the ‘selfie culture’ most associated with social media. Gen X does not like to broadcast their personal life, in fact, only 24 percent have actually shared on social media. Similar to baby boomers, they like to spend time connecting with friends and searching for information.
Generation X values their independence and likes to do their research before making purchases with 68 percent making their buying decisions based on online reviews. They are also avid multitaskers and use regularly switch between multiple devices (computer, tablets, and mobile). Their favorite social medium is Facebook.
When using social media marketing to target Generation X, it’s important to remember they are the generation of counter-culture; they value their independence and making smart purchase decisions after careful online research.
Millennials are those born between 1980 to 1995. They were the first generation to access social media and adopt it as their main form of communication. The also began using social media while still in school. Because of this early adoption, social media is relevant to both their personal and professional lives. Millennials were also the first generation to learn the pitfalls of oversharing and that the internet is written in ink, not pencil.
Millennials are described as optimistic, collaborative, digital pioneers, who unlike previous generations have no issue putting their personal and professional lives on public display via social media. Facebook is still the most popular platform among millennials, but Instagram is a very close second with most Millennials using multiple social media platforms multiple times a day.
This generation is heavily influenced by what they see on their favorite social media platforms. 72% have reported buying fashion and beauty products based on Instagram posts and 84% said they’ve been influenced to make a purchase based on UGC (user generated content).
While Millennials trust their peers and celebrity influencers they are much less trusting of big brands and traditional advertising. They tend to believe what their peers say and turn to social media to seek validation. This validation also results in “FOMO” or the fear of missing out as they are more exposed and influenced by their peers’ activity on social media.
Marketing to Millennials is all about engaging with them on their level. They prefer content from those in their network and look at social media as a primary form of communication and inspiration.
Gen Z are the new kids on the block – born after 1995 and largely considered the future of the global economy. By 2020 this generation will be the largest group of consumers worldwide and they have never known a world without social media.
Social media is their primary form of media and entertainment. This generation is more likely to turn to YouTube on their mobile device than the television. They are truly tethered to their mobile devices and social media with 44 percent checking their social profiles at least hourly.
This generation is filled with realistic, independent digital natives, who unlike Millennials are more private when it comes to sharing. They have learned from past generations and are more careful when it comes to posting and privacy. Unlike Millennials who love to post publicly, Gen Z prefers direct and timebound social sharing like Instagram stories and Snapchat.
In addition to this direct social sharing, they are also avid content consumers with 95 percent watching YouTube, and 50 percent surveyed saying they could not live without it, as compared to different social media networks. This is truly the YouTube generation.
When Millennial were teenagers, social media was a place to check out what their friends were up to and update their status, for Gen Z social media is a place for entertainment. Generation Z is more likely to use social media to fill time and be entertained rather than connect with friends. They also stick to fewer platforms for longer periods of time.
When marketing to this generation it is important to remember most of the content they consume is via YouTube, Snapchat, and Instagram because they love visuals. With their average attention span of 8 seconds brands need to be eye chatting and quick to capture this generation’s attention.
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