The 4 Generations on Social You Ought to Know

generations on social media

By Daniel Lara

There are many things in my life that I love, and dinner parties are one of them. Before I hosted my first ever soirée, my mother made it a point to instill a statement in my head. “Know your guests,” she said. While she also said, “Your chicken tends to be dry,” it was, “Know your guests,” that stuck with me for years—even to this day.

At first it took me some time to really understand what she meant, but after hosting a few parties it all became crystal clear. When you’re hosting a dinner party, you’re essentially creating an experience, and the best experiences are shaped by the preferences and behaviors of your guests. To this point, the more I knew about my guests, the more I was able to personalize aspects of an event for each person—making them feel valued and special. 

And isn’t that what we’re all about on social? As marketers, aren’t we hosting experiences on social media networks so that customers feel valued and special? It’s like an ongoing dinner party with an open invitationone where we hope audiences happily consume our content and share their enjoyment with others. As such, knowing our audience is imperative to the success of our social strategy.

And that’s what we’ve done here. For this piece, we’ve mined through reports about age to gain more insight into a few audience segments prevalent on social. More specifically, we’re examining the four primary living generations: Baby Boomers, Gen X, Millennials and Gen Z. You see, your audiences will be comprised of all ages, so it’s necessary that we analyze behaviors and preferences in aggregate. It’s the only scalable way to create personalized content that will resonate with large audiences. By getting to know these generation types, you will be able sift through your own data to identify trends and opportunities that can help you build a more informed content strategy.
 

Baby Boomers

(Born between 1946-64)


Qualities:  With an age range of 51 to 65, this group’s key life experiences span mostly throughout the twentieth century. Baby Boomers were born into post-WWII cultures. They are considered the “rock and roll” and first TV generation. They lived through the wars of the ‘60s and ‘70s, creating a “me” attitude that ultimately broke from the traditions of generations past: such as women working outside the home, divorce acceptance, and a “buy now and use credit” mentality. Baby Boomers are also identified as people who see technology and innovation as a learning process and, unlike their parents, think of retirement as more than just a stay-at-home part of life, but an exciting time to travel and enjoy life. Most importantly, they are a very populous group. In the U.S., Baby Boomers secure one quarter of the population. 

Key Social Insight: 60% of Baby Boomers are actively using social media. Studies also show that Americans over 55 outspend younger adults online 2:1. (Source)

Takeaway: Today, Baby Boomers are making strides toward learning these platforms in hopes of making their lives better. These audiences are either retired and/or their children are now adults, which means there’s more disposable income and time—a big opportunity for online sales. While it’s taking this generation a little longer to grasp all the major social networks, when they are on, they are ready to learn and spend. Look through your analytics and see if they’re consuming your content. If they are, think about how your product or service can benefit this demo and test a few pieces with them. If they’re not, consider tactics relevant to your brand that might peak their interest.  

Gen X

(Born between 1965-80)

Qualities: Children of the above generation, these now 35 to 50 year olds were once kids of two-income households or a single parent unit. This type of “empty home” produced a generation that is very individualistic and entrepreneurial. They are seen as short on loyalty and commitment and they desire exploration and contribution. This may be the reason why Gen Xers have an average of seven career changes within their lifetime. Currently, most are homeowners with children at home. 

Key Social Insight: 86% of Gen Xers are online on a daily basis and are multi-tasking professionals that are actively seeking information. They are the second largest percentage of Pinterest users and nearly two-thirds have used Facebook in the past month. (Source)

Takeaway:  Gen Xers are a well-informed, goal-oriented audience. People in this generation are reaching the height of their careers, with many out-earning Baby Boomers. On social, marketers have a chance to build long-lasting product value and brand loyalty with this generation. And the way to get there is through authentic, trust-worthy information. If your intent is to target people identified as Gen Xers, then the content must be easy to understand, insightful, and offer a benefit upfront. Transparency is key with this audience.

Millennials/Gen Y

(Born between 1980-98)


Qualities: Ages 17 to 34, most Millennials came into this world nurtured by focused parents. Millennials grew up with fast food, video games and computers, which shaped them into placing a high emphasis on quick information and instant satisfaction. They tend to have a sense of entitlement and a keen understanding of the digital space (since they grew up with some type of digital appliance). One significant trait of this generation is that they value work, but do not live to work. Having a social life outside of work is a necessary feature in life that they strive for. Lastly, Millennials represent more than a quarter of the U.S. population (more than Baby Boomers). 

Key Social Insight: 62% of millennials say that if a brand engages with them on social networks, they are more likely to become a loyal customer. They expect brands to not only be on social networks, but to engage with them. (Source)

Takeaway:  This tech-savvy generation knows exactly what they want from brands on social media. They’re active on most of the major networks so planning a connected social strategy that spans across multiple networks is a critical step toward reaching this audience. In order to generate content that resonates with a Millennial, marketers must be creative, clever and quick. This audience wants to feel like a valuable customer, so baking that message into your content is a powerful way to nurture customer loyalty.
 

Gen Z

(Born between 1999-Present)

Qualities: From babies, to toddlers, to teens, Generation Z is the youth of today’s world. For this group, digital is all they know. This audience is the mobile device generation. So much so that the second screen is a necessary component to the television experience. Because of the easy accessibility of information from digital tools, Gen Zers are adept researchers. Where Millennials use an average of three screens, this group uses five. Due to the immediacy at which content has been delivered to them, this group has a lower attention span than the generations before them. Gen Z is also the third largest group in the U.S. (trailing behind Baby Boomers), but by 2020, they'll account for 40% of all consumers. (Source)

Key Social Insight: Consumers age 19 and younger prefer social networks like Snapchat, Secret and Whisper, and a quarter of people age 13 to 17 have left Facebook this year. (Source)

Takeaway: While the purchasing power of this group is no match for the aforementioned generations, they do have influence over some of them because they are their children and grandchildren. But the main thing here is that Generation Z is an audience interested in the next big thing. Emerging networks—ones that their parents are not on—are far more attractive than Facebook and Twitter. Testing on new social frontiers is the only way brands can really capture the attention of Gen Z. And it’s not just being on these networks, it’s also about standing out and creating highly visual, fascinating content. Unlike Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, Gen Zers are more open to experimentation and risk-taking content—so have fun with it. If you do, they will, too.   

Note: Data from the "Qualities" section of each generation was provided by Marketingteacher.com 

What are your tips for marketing to certain age demographics?