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Older Adults Taking to Social Media

Klein Consulting works with businesses that sell products and services to Baby Boomers and seniors. So it was with great interest, but not much surprise, that I read the results of the just released Pew Internet study titled “Older Adults and Social Media.

The study found that in the US, “half (47%) of internet users ages 50-64 and one in four (26%) users age 65 and older now use social networking sites.” These findings represent an increase in usage of 88% by 50-64 year olds and 100% by people 65+ in just one year! Impressive!

Why is social networking gaining in popularity among these internet users? At least part of the answer has to do with a desire for personal connections; to reconnect with people from the past, as well as to stay connected and current with kids and grandkids.

But by no means are Facebook, Twitter et al. the top online destinations for these two age groups. Email and reading the news are the most popular ways Boomers and seniors spend their time on the web. According to the study, “overall, 92% of those ages 50-64 and 89% of those ages 65 and older send or read email” online and “76% of internet users ages 50-64 get news online” while “among users ages 65 and older, 62% look for news online.”

As marketers, in order to get the full picture we need to understand what percentage of the older adult US population is actually active online. Thank you Pew Internet, which reported in a January 2010 study that “70% of adults ages 50-64 years old go online,” while just “38% of US adults age 65 and older go online.”

What’s the takeaway? Marketers targeting Baby Boomers need to seriously consider email marketing, first and foremost, and social media, secondarily, as viable tactics to incorporate into their campaigns.

When it comes to marketing to the 65+ set, it is not as clear cut since fewer of them are online. If a company is targeting early adopters or mainstream adopters, then email marketing should be evaluated. Social media may be effective if the target is the early adopter senior segment, or if adult children are important influencers in the purchase decision.

Of course, when marketing to both age groups, other considerations must be factored in as the optimal suite of marketing tools are assembled. They include the campaign’s objectives, the product/service being sold, the desired brand perception, available resources and the campaign’s duration. Overtime, though, as Boomers age and more older adults come online, email and social media will become standard components of marketing campaigns.

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