Social Media - It's Not About Technology

by , Dec 5, 2011, 8:01 AM
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According to Pew Research, Baby Boomers and older folks using social media has increased enormously in 2010 and it continues to grow into 2011. The 55 to 64 and 65+ age groups are catching up to younger demos. In fact, it’s the 65+ age group that has grown the most in the past two years, increasing by 49%. 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 created the technology we enjoy today. 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 are all baby boomers. But social media is not about technology. It’s about people connecting with people. And it’s so much more. 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 included:

  • 91% of Americans use social media in an average month. That’s 129 million.
  • 58% use Facebook monthly. The average number of friends is 130.
  • 18% of parents try to connect with their children via Facebook, up from 6% in 2009.
  • Facebook visits last five times longer than visits to Google+.
  • Social networks are an infinite loop: 19% of all visits are immediately followed by a visit to another social network.
  • 20% of users now access social media via their phones, up from 11%.
  • 14% use phones to upload photos and video.

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.

Consultant Jeff Korhan says “traditional media may be dying, but you can learn a lot from it.” He goes on to say that “traditional media provides entertainment or educational content (including the news) – and in exchange for their hard work you accept commercials and other forms of advertising.” Social media efforts, (YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, etc.) have often taken a similar approach by becoming another distribution channel for traditional media saturating content with slick advertising making the experience more like an electronic brochure for products and services than an interactive experience. Now it’s clear social media has evolved to focus on making profits, and that’s good and acceptable.

Social media reaches out to an audience to engage it, and make a profit for all its efforts. However, if you want to be successful in your social media efforts you have you make it “sticky”; encouraging visitors to come back and interact. Visitors will come back and interact when they believe you are about them and their needs and desires.

So, how do you best use social media? Create interactive experiences. 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.

Our experience tells us that 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. Their 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)
  • 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.

To succeed in social media, marketers must have foresight. Yet at times they seem to have vastly better hindsight. Marketers can be forgiven for not jumping on—if not foreseeing—radically new platforms, channels, and opportunities. How can someone predict the impact of flash sales or social gaming? The point isn’t that marketers can’t agree on the future.

If there are no longer one-size-fits-all solutions for reaching audiences, why should there be any for the marketers themselves? 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.

Has the ship sailed, then? Is it too late for the latecomers? No, it’s never too late. Even brands that have an early lead in social media will need to constantly innovate in order to keep pace with the ever-changing landscape.” What’s more, brands just getting into social media have the advantage of learning from the success and failures of early entries into social media.

3 comments on "Social Media - It's Not About Technology".

  1. Paula Lynn from Who Else Unlimited
    commented on: December 5, 2011 at 3:42 p.m.
    Seniors are unfortunately the most gullible and are the most to be ripped off by unscrupulous snake oil sales people. On line, there are still many people fall for the Nigerian princes giving them money schemes and think a gorgeous/handsome woman/man who asks for money is going to make them happy in wedded bliss. Add into the mixer the hosts of tracking and spam devices which are easily downloaded. You see where this is going. Help will be needed more than ever.
  2. Jesus Grana from Independent
    commented on: December 5, 2011 at 3:48 p.m.
    Thanks for a very complementary post to my latest post on Social Media and its potential through customer focus and scenario development http://jrgrana.com
  3. Mary Pannullo from BCF
    commented on: December 6, 2011 at 3:24 p.m.
    Jim, Great commentary and you bring up a very important point on the using social media to engage Boomers. To reflect "empathy with the values and motivators" of this demographic is to understand that they were brought up on mass media - and they value - yes, I'll say it - "truth in advertising." Boomers were not born yesterday, are beyond overexposed to marketing messages and are savvy online researchers. Be transparent, real and honorable with this power consumer, and they will award you with the holy grail of marketing via any channel, positive Word-of-Mouth. Best, MPannullo BCF - Boom Your Brand boomyourbrand.com @boomyourbrand

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