How the Older Generation Use Social Media (and How to Attract Them)


While social media is synonymous with selfie-stricken millennials, lengthy teenage overshares and utterly adorable cats, there is a ballooning number of over 65s taking to the social media airwaves.

But, far too often, is this large segment overlooked by marketers. Recent statistics demonstrate the dramatic change in our ageing population, with 1 in 6 people aged 65 or over (some 10 million). Making the portion of our population dubbed the ‘silversurfers’ mightier than ever before.

But just how are the older generation using social media?

Due to its very nature, our older generation are using social media networks to keep in touch with family and friends, with a huge surge in over 50s using social media networks in the last five years.

Recent research from revealed that;

  • 35% of over 50s can’t be bothered with social media apart from Facebook.
  • Twitter, Pinterest, Instagram and Google+ were low in the social media popularity stakes with only 25% using Google+, 19% Twitter and 9% Pinterest and Instagram.

Further research performed by UM London specifically monitored the over 55 age group in the UK, discovering how the older generation consume content online, in comparison to their younger counterparts.

research performed by UM London


How should brands attract the older generation using social media?

Although millennials may seem like the typical market to attract using social media; thanks to the staggering rise of over 50s using social media networks, brands should be adding this demographic to their hit list.

According to a massive 49% of over 50s use social networking sites: considering this figure was only 1% less than a decade ago, it’s a massive jump in growth. There’s huge potential for generating profit with this affluent demographic, with the over 50s being the richest segment of our population.

With the Guardian reporting projections for penetration of Facebook usage forecast growth to 37% of over-65s by 2017, and growth in digital video viewer penetration to 46%, the future of marketing via social media to the older generation is looking very bright.

Good news, as it is plenty cheaper than using traditional, saturated channels such as TV advertising and engages the audience in a direct, targeted manner.

What content are the Boomers loving?

Nostalgia related content is said to be the most popular type of social media content amongst the older generation, along with human interest, photo of the day and handy tips.

The most popular type of online editorial is special interest articles; spanning topics such as pensions, inheritance tax, gardening and cooking tips. Brands should be careful to consider this info when they are moulding their social media strategies to target this audience.

However, one key factor to targeting and successfully marketing to over 50s is to further break down the audience. While they may be a demographic, the interests, needs, desires and motivations differ between different clusters of this large spanning group – they aren’t one generic mass.

Just look at the younger generation – we have several groups categorising them, from tweens to millennials to hipsters. Breaking down these audiences into bite size chunks will help created digestible, targeted social content, more likely to engage and make an impact on the reader.

In a survey published in early 2014 in Marketing Week, research organisation iProspect identified three clear audience segments of the older generation.

  1. Adventurous adopters (aged 50-59) – serious smartphone users who research online and buy in-store.
  2. Confident adopters (60-69) – this group is all over social media, particularly YouTube. They are happy to buy online.
  3. Comfort adopters (70+) – love their tablets and Smart TVs. Shop in-store.

As the digitally converted continue to take social media by storm, it’s clear that brands need to seriously think about how they can engage with this powerful demographic in an online environment.