Millennials Follow Brands; GenX , Contests; and Boomers, Promotions

According to The 2017 Sprout Social Index, compiled and released by Sprout Social, and conducted by Survata, an independent research firm in San Francisco, 1 in 10 messages actually get a response from a brand, 30% of Millennials engage with a brand on social at least once a month, and 14% of Baby Boomers initiate conversations with brands on social at least once a month.

To comprehend how each generation is engaging with brands on social and what that means for your business, Sprout Social surveyed 1,000 Millennials (ages 18-34), Gen Xers (ages 34-54) and Baby Boomers (ages 55+). The results revealed a few commonalities, and shed light on the differences between the behaviors, perceptions and expectations of each generation.

Across all three generations, 43.6% of respondents identified Facebook (which began as a collegiate social community) as their social network of choice. Collectively, respondents found Facebook to be 29% more popular than Instagram, the respondents’ nearest, cross-generational preference.

Facebook’s widespread popularity is nearly identical among Gen X (64.7%) and Baby Boomers (65.2%). When it comes to Millennials, however, the survey findings showed that Facebook might be Millennials’ most beloved platform but the group’s preference for Facebook over other social networks isn’t as pronounced as it is for Gen X and Baby Boomers.

Both older generations identified YouTube as their second favorite social platform, but for Gen X, Facebook is 54% more popular than YouTube.

Millennials were more evenly split their vote between Facebook (33%), Instagram (22.2%) and Snapchat (15.8%). 

  • 25% of younger Millennials (ages 18-24) identify Instagram as their favorite social media network. The mobile photo-sharing app just barely beat out Facebook (24.4%) and Snapchat (23.3%) for the top spot on the subset’s shortlist
  • Just like their generational counterparts, more Millennials opt for YouTube (11.5%) than Twitter (7.55%)

Insight alone, says the report, won’t drive return on investment. To effectively apply an understanding of social media consumption habits by generation, one must first determine how likely an audience segment is to actually opt-in and follow your brand on social. The survey found that Millennials and Gen Xers are twice as likely to follow a brand on social as Baby Boomers are.

And along the path to purchase, Millennials (58.9%), Gen Xers (50.4%) and Baby Boomers (55%) all tend to follow a brand on social media before purchasing a product. Each generation expresses interest on social during the same stage in the customer journey, but they aren’t looking for the same experience. Millennials follow brands for entertainment value (38%) and information (42%),

  • Gen X is more likely to follow for contests (41%), deals and promotions (58%)
  • Baby Boomers fall somewhere in the middle and are looking for a healthy mix of deals and promotion (60%) and information (53%).

When it comes to interacting with brands, the youngest cohort cited social media as their preferred method of communication. Millennials are twice as likely to turn to social, rather than phone or email, to communicate with a brand.

With each generation engaging with your brand at a different cadence, it only makes sense that each group would unfollow your brand for a different reason.

  • Gen Xers are nearly 160% more likely than the other generations to unfollow a brand that says something offensive or in opposition to their personal beliefs
  • Millennials unfollow because they had a bad experience (21%) or because they found a brand’s social marketing annoying (22%)
  • 29% of Baby Boomers say that too much spam causes direct action and opt-out

Across age groups, more than 60% of people who follow your brand are willing to buy from your brand. With such a high percentage of individuals willing to buy, you need to put effort into unearthing what types of social content will push them over the edge to purchase. Most importantly, this number increases by 9% as long as your brand is willing to invest in organic engagement through one-on-one conversations and positive interactions.

Finally, when asked, 14.9% of Gen Xers ranked the Media and Entertainment industry at the top in terms of customer service on social; 14.1% Baby Boomers think the Retail industry provides the best customer care; and Millennials agree with both of their older counterparts: The age group’s vote is split evenly between Media and Entertainment (16%) and Retail (16%). Considering that only one in 10 messages to brands actually get a response, it is surprising that any industry is perceived favorably in that department, concludes the report.

All referenced data is based on 280,000 public social profiles (135,000 Facebook; 114,000 Twitter; 31,000 Instagram) of continually active accounts between Q4 2015 and Q4 2016. More than 3.8 billion messages sent and received during that time were analyzed for the purposes of this report.

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