Survey Finds Trends Among Technology, Social Media and Older Consumers

According to Pew Research, Baby Boomers and older folks using social media has increased enormously in the past two years.

By Diane Toops, News and Trends Editor

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According to Pew Research (www. pewresearch.org) Baby Boomers and older folks using social media has increased enormously in the past two years, reports MediaPost.

The 55 to 64 and 65+ age groups are catching up to younger demos. In fact, 65+ consumers using social media grew the most in the past two years, up 49 percent. At more than 100 million strong, baby boomer and older customers (born before 1965) are the single largest consumer group in America, and they are the wealthiest, best educated and most sophisticated of purchasers. With more disposable income than any population in America, they are, in fact, as author David Wolfe coined them the "New Customer Majority."

Baby boomers including the late Steve Jobs of Apple, Bill Gates from Microsoft, Larry Ellison of Oracle and Sir Timothy John "Tim" Berners-Lee, the man who "invented" the internet — all baby boomers — created the technology we enjoy today. But social media is not about technology. It's about people connecting with people. According to an Experian 2011 Social Media Consumer Trend Report, it also provides consumers with personalized way to connect to companies, brands and media and vice versa, making it an undeniable, if often complex, marketing tool.

Other tidbits from the Experian report (www.hitwise.com/us) include:

  • 91 percent of Americans (129 million) use social media in an average month
  • 98 percent of 18-24-year-olds use social media each month
  • nearly three in four online seniors use social media in a typical month as do 82 percent of those ages 55 to 64
  • 58 percent use Facebook monthly, and the average number of friends is 130
  • Facebook visits last five times longer than visits to Google+
  • Social networks are an infinite loop: 19 percent of all visits are immediately followed by a visit to another social network
  • 20 percent of users now access social media via their phones; and 14 percent use phones to upload photos and video
  • Social media usage is nearly ubiquitous among America's young adults with little room for expansion, given that 98 percent of online 18-to 24 year-olds use social media each month.

Since the primary purpose of social media is to encourage people to connect, content and advertising needs to have the best chance of generating interest and converting that interest into a longevity and loyalty reflecting empathy with the values and motivators of this demo. Thus, a key to capturing and keeping these rapidly growing lucrative demos is a better understanding of their values and how their behavior, buying motivators and satisfaction needs change, as they get older. Values typically include: Autonomy and self-sufficiency (independence/participation); Social connectedness (relationships/friendships); Altruism (opportunity to share wisdom and ability to do for others: family, community & country); Personal growth (gain knowledge) and Revitalization (need to rejuvenate)

The next step is applying knowledge gained to create effective content, titillating interactivity and online advertising, communications and sales strategies and tactics.

Social media content and advertising should be easy to read and be experiential in nature. It should reflect empathy for the values mentioned above. Positioning your company as a gateway to desired experiences of your target markets should be your goal. Progressive marketers are the ones pushing the envelope, setting dialogues, and defining the industry. They're willing to commit, experiment and adjust aided, of course, by robust data collected at every step in the process.

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