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Baby Boomer Trends Online

Baby Boomers are as likely as other younger generations to be active online. That was a common theme at both the Aging in America Conference and the What’s Next Boomer Business Summit held in San Francisco last week. How are these 78 million Americans spending their time and engaging with others on the internet? What are the Baby Boomer trends online?

The most recent and significant change is that social media has gone mainstream. According to Bill Tancer, GM, Global Research at Experian Marketing Services, research conducted by his organization found that 51% of the adults online ages 50+ are using social networking sites.

Boomers are actually surpassing their younger cohorts when it comes to engaging in the web’s foremost social media hub, Facebook.  In fact, Facebook visitors 55+ years old are 23% more likely to go onto Facebook than other age groups. This visit share is in contrast to the 35 – 44 year old “Gen X” generation, which actually decreased its Facebook visit share from 23% to 21% in 2010.

Bill Tancer also reported that, after Facebook, the most popular social media sites for Boomers over 55 years old are You Tube, MySpace and Yahoo Answers.

Delving into the preferences of Boomer women, AARP’s research has found that nearly half are active online, spending an average of 20 hour per week on the web. More than 50% of these women are on Facebook, where they average 50 friends each.

However, social media is not Boomer women’s primary activity online. Stephen Reily, CEO of Vibrant Nation, shared that it is most common for these women to be spending their time on the internet using search engines and email, followed by doing research and visiting health-related sites. Online gaming is also a popular pastime.

The most connected Boomer cohort is the “Social Media Maven.” As described by Lori Bitter, President and CEO of Continuum Crew, this group is 53% female, communicates intensively and is regularly exploring and expanding its networks. Social Media Mavens are more likely to try new products and refer them to friends, thereby influencing their networks’ buying decisions and preferences. Interestingly, because they thrive on being in touch and on personal interactions, they use the phone more often than email.

While Boomers are active consumers of web content, they are not as inclined to react to what they read by adding their opinions to the online conversation. Lori Bitter stated that 90% of Boomers just view content, 9% comment and 1% upload information related to what they’ve read. One of the reasons that the comment percentage is so low is simple. Boomers like to be asked to participate in the conversation before doing so.

All of these data points leave no doubt that Boomers are entrenched in the online mainstream. Marketers striving to influence this notable market segment need to broaden the design of their campaigns to include email and social media components, in combination with offline and, where appropriate, mobile tactics as well. Don’t forget to ask Boomers to join in the online conversation and share their opinions.

What do you think? Do you agree? Yes, I’m asking you to please join the conversation.

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