Growing cross-channel marketing opportunities including social networks to reach and engage older generations


Many marketers include social networking sites and social media in their cross-channel marketing mix to reach specific target groups that typically use these channels more. These target groups include, on top of people who have particular jobs or are active in certain industries, the younger generations.

However, social media are getting more mature, even showing lower growth in some areas. At the same time, social networks are increasingly adopted by new demographic groups. In the US, for instance, Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project, last week released data, showing that for the first time since it started measuring, half of adult Americans now uses social networking sites, with Facebook and LinkedIn obviously being the clear leaders.  When looking just at the American online population, this means that 65% of adult Internet users, use social networking sites.

The "graying" of social networks

The survey found that, while the main growth of sites such as Facebook in the beginning came from young people (which can be partially explained by the origin of a site such as Facebook), growth has been driven by those over 30 in the last year.

There is also a clear growth among Internet users aged 65 and older: one-third of them uses social network sites now. Last year this was still 26%.

However, Pew found differences in the use of social network sites among the adult users. Seniors are still "testing the waters" while baby boomers are starting to adopt social media as part of their digital lifestyle.

social networking site use by age group

The so-called "graying" of social networking sites is not a typical US phenomenon and happens in more countries. It is more or less comparable to the evolutions regarding Internet adoption, as we saw it in the early Internet years.

How do your target groups want to interact?

Although there are obviously differences per country (Dutch Internet users, for instance, are much more on social networks than their counterparts on the European continent), the graying of social networks is worth taking a look by businesses that want to reach and engage older target groups using relevant and customer-centric cross-channel interaction programs and campaigns.

Making social media and sharing mechanisms part of your overall marketing and interaction strategy, obviously depends on your business goals and the behavior and preferences of your target groups. Segmentation, targeting and personalization play a crucial role here, as well as striving for customer-driven touch points and interactions.

Ask your target groups and customers how they would like to interact with you and don't fall in the trap of general demographic findings.

Asking, testing and offering relevant messages and content through a cross-channel mix, including social, might work very well if your target group is over a specific age as well. And, looking at the findings of Pew, chance is it increasingly will.

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