Social media is a great resource for any hustler who wants to increase their reach and bring more attention to their products and brand. However, just because social media is the place to go to connect with many of your customers doesn’t mean that they all connect in the same ways.
According to Pew Research, “Today around seven-in-ten Americans use social media to connect with one another, engage with news content, share information and entertain themselves.” The wide variety of people who use social networks makes them a valuable connection to many people with different interests, backgrounds, and needs.
Users are able to take the many features social media sites offer and make them work for their own needs. Some users are primarily interested in using social network for connecting with friends and family. Others see social media primarily as a portal to entertainment, like games, videos, music, and humorous content. Still others use social media primarily as a source of news and a way to connect with groups within their communities.
Luckily, social media networks have collected a wealth of highly valuable data about how users interact with these sites. You can connect with these different users in specific ways that optimize their experience with your brand on social media.
One key factor that influences the way a user interacts with social media is their age. Let’s explore some of the differences in the ways that users of different ages use social media, and how you can use their habits to make the most of your marketing.
Generation Z is a powerful group — they make up about a quarter of the U.S. population today. This demographic of young users is the only group where most members can’t remember a time before social media was part of our everyday lives. Gen Z is on the cusp of adulthood, and they’re about to gain purchasing power. We are now discovering the ways that they interact with media, and we’ve found that in some ways, they’re much different than the millennials before them.
About half of Gen Z is online at least 10 hours a day. Because of this, Gen Z’s media consumption is mostly subconscious. Gen Z uses social media for entertainment purposes for about 3 hours everyday, and 70 percent watch more than two hours of YouTube each day. Knowing this, marketers can integrate promotions that successfully resonate with these users naturally through channels like influencers. Sixty-nine percent of Gen Zers view ads as disruptive according to Vision Critical — an indicator of how natural marketing and organic growth is preferred by this group.
For Gen Zers, social media is also a major way of engaging with his or her community. Members of this demographic use social media to learn about news and organize events and groups. One big key to engaging Gen Z? Make your content look nice — Vision Critical found 67 percent of this group say they find visual appearance important.
Much of the social media marketing we currently use is built for and by millennials. Millennials were among the first users to embrace online shopping, and they innovated social media marketing. Millennials tend to focus on social media as a broadcast — a channel for them to interact with the brands they connect with. Social media allows millennials to see how a product can fit into their lives, and they expect brands to understand social media.
Millennials use social media to market their own image as a part of their identity. This has lead to a unique blending of formerly separate parts of life — social, family, and career are all intermixed. Some companies have capitalized on this intermixing with great success — for example, businesses in the sharing economy have thrived in the context of millennial’s overlapping family, social, and career needs.
Millennials are used to unlimited choice, and they’re not willing to settle for letting a brand tell them what they should buy. “This requires what the industry calls a ‘Total Market’ mindset, which means a mindset that embraces a diverse audience rather than targeting one majority audience and hoping the others will follow,” notes a resource from the Washington State University.
They’re not very concerned with privacy, which gives marketers some bargaining chips. “51 percent of US millennials would share information with companies in exchange for an incentive,” says marketing writer John Egan at LeadersCon.
Millennials are the generation that ushered in the age of proactive marketing marketing. They see social media as a entrepreneurial outlet, a news source, and a place to be entertained, much like Gen Z, but they’re a little less integrated with social networks than the younger group. Surprisingly, they’re also less integrated than prior generations as well.
Gen Xers are even bigger fans of social media than millennials. A report from the New York Times states, “Adults 35 to 49 were found to spend an average of 6 hours 58 minutes a week on social media networks, compared with 6 hours 19 minutes for the younger group (Millennials).” This might seem surprising, but it just means more opportunities to engage with this generation of users.
The ubiquity of the smartphone has helped engage Gen X, who grew up alongside heavy TV advertising and an older era of internet marketing, rife with abrupt techniques like pop ups and loud, flashy banner ads. To them, the integrated and natural methods of marketing through social media are a welcome breath of fresh air when it comes to online ads.
Gen X users are still loyal to their laptops and desktop computers, whereas Gen Z is moving towards being totally mobile. Translate Media shares these statistics: “The average US household has 7 active connected devices in use each day and in the UK the number rises to 8.3 connected devices – marketers can no longer assume that mobile users and desktop users are different people.” Because of this, cross-device marketing is still an important part of marketing to this cohort. Ensure that your content is optimized to work great for both mobile and desktop users.
One area where Gen X is tuning in is second-screen activity — 42 percent of social media users talking about movies and TV are ages 35 to 49. This generation tends to have a lot of fan loyalty, and they love forming communities around brands and franchises that connect with them. Gen X are also twice as likely to follow a brand on social media than the generation before them.
Baby boomers love social media just as much as the three younger generations, but for some different reasons. They’re not using social media the same way: “Adults 50 and over spent significantly less time on the networks: an average of 4 hours 9 minutes a week,” reported the New York Times. Mobile phones and social media are not as integrated into their lives as those that belong to younger groups. That doesn’t stop them from engaging though.
Boomers are less likely to be open to giving out information about their privacy. They’re also the most likely group to unfollow a brand if they think their marketing is spammy, according to MarketingProfs. Whereas Millennials and Gen Z require that brands engage with social media, Boomers tend to be much more skeptical.
They remember a time when privacy was still a priority, and many of them are reluctant to change their outlook — this has colored their outlook on marketing on social media. Instead of viewing social networks as a place to shop, connect, and be entertained, most older users are hoping to connect with friends and family. Because of this, their social network of choice is Facebook; DMN3 found that 82 percent of Boomers were on the site.
Marketers probably shouldn’t prioritize boomers when it comes to their social media marketing plans, with one exception — if they’re your primary target audience. In this case, it’s a good idea to work to optimize your content for boomer users. Baby boomers aren’t opposed to hearing about brands or products on social media, but they’re not likely to consider social networks as a source of information that they can base purchasing decisions on.
Understanding the ways that different generations engage with social media is an important step in optimizing your social media marketing for your target audience. Depending on your products and the goals of your hustle, you can adjust your social media marketing plan to meet the different needs of these target audiences. Start with your overall marketing strategy first to determine who your average customer looks like and how you can optimize your social channels to connect with them. Once you’ve got a clear picture, the likes will start rolling in.