Boomers and their use of social media are creating a lot buzz lately. Are they really participating? Is this the best way to reach older consumers? Is it a tactic to be layered with other more traditional tactics? We were seeking to understand Boomers activities in the social media space and launched a research study to answer these questions.
Lori Bitter is President of Continuum Crew, an integrated communications firm focused on engaging mature consumers
The first, and not surprising, finding is that when it comes to social media, older boomers behave more like seniors (the cohort known as “Ikes” or the Silent Generation) and younger boomers behave more like the Gen-X cohort.
The biggest takeaway may be the last line of this chart. Fifty percent of seniors are not participating on any social network, while 47% of older boomers and 45% of younger boomers are not. So while half of older consumers may have no interest in social media, the numbers who are “reachable” is still in the 35-40 million range.
Balance this finding with where boomers are spending their time, compared to three years ago (before the current economic crisis.) They reported spending less time doing these things:
Volunteering 38% Reading magazines 34% Reading newspapers 34% Reading for pleasure 33% Exercising 31% Listening to the radio 29% Time with spouse 18% Watching TV 16%
The only category that showed a significant increase: the 62% growth in spending time online. Boomers are trading time with more traditional media for time online.
The Boomer Social Maven
To help companies engage the boomer who is online and in social networks, we asked a series of questions to segment them. In the final analysis, two key questions were most predictive in defining the boomer social maven: 1.) They network both on and offline and 2.) Have a propensity to recommend products and services to others.
From this analysis, three clear segments emerged:
- Isolated Insulars: on their own; social islands
- Everyday people: most boomers (and social media lurkers)
- Social Mavens: connected, exploring and expanding networks daily
It was important to look at frequency of contact with their social networks as opposed to amassing friends or connections. Boomer social mavens have significantly more frequent contact with individuals across all types of groups within their social sphere. This includes family members, political organizations, hobby or interest groups, religious organizations, social groups, neighbors, co-workers, former co-workers and business contacts.
The boomer social maven is most likely to be a younger boomer (45-54) and equally male and female; this is a surprise to many who think of women as the voracious social media consumer. The important takeaway for marketers is that mavens are huge consumers of all types of media and use more traditional media than the other segments. This points to a greater need for integration of on and offline engagement strategy for those companies who want to reach the unicorn.