It’s a conventional wisdom that the older you are, the less adept you are with new technology. But has older generations’ relationship with tech started to shift? Are they throwing away their flip phones and embracing smart ones? A recently released Pew Research Center survey suggests they are. It found that two-thirds of adults aged 65 and older regularly go online to review news, check social media, and even play online games. This statistic, along with other survey findings, points to greater tech usage among older Americans—and marketers should take note.
Shifting to Smartphones
Apple may have recently announced the new iPhone X, but how many grandparents saw the news and put it on their wish list? Likely few—but not because they don’t want smartphones. In fact, Pew Research Center found that the number of adults older than 65 who own smartphones has jumped from only 18 percent in 2013 to 42 percent in 2016. This number has big implications when, at 47.8 million people, this age group accounts for 50 percent of all consumer expenditures in the U.S.
Rather, the problem is that brands often ignore older generations in their digital marketing efforts, thinking that traditional print and TV commercials will suffice for those over 65. While those channels are important to the demographic, online and social media marketing should not be forgotten.
With the latest findings showing that older Americans are spending more time online and on their web-enabled phones, it’s up to brands to reach them there.
Socially Savvy and Ready to Engage
Seniors are the fastest-growing demographic for Facebook and are more likely to share content than any other generation; Pew Research found that 34 percent of Americans aged 65 and older use social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. (For comparison, 86 percent of adults aged 18-29 are on social media.)
While social media can be a good space for advertising, it also provides a great opportunity for brands to connect directly with their audience. Baby boomers are 58 percent more likely than other generations to visit a brand’s site because of a social media post. This makes a brand’s presence on social even more critical.
What other online platforms should marketers consider? YouTube. According to a new report released by Strike Social, a firm that specializes in YouTube brand marketing, the baby boomer generation has high engagement rates on the video platform. This demographic is 10 percent more likely to watch an advertisement that plays before their intended feature than those in the millennial audience. This could be because they are conditioned to ads from television or they have longer attentions spans; either way, the report notes that advertisers are not taking advantage of this and are still allocating more of their advertising budget to millennials (156 percent more) and Gen Xers (137 percent more). Since those over 65 have more spending power, companies would be wise to take on this audience and explore their reach on the video platform.
Are Seniors the New Influencers?
If seniors are becoming vocal online and paying attention to advertisements, how does this impact a brand’s influencer strategy?
Seniors are quick to share their brand experiences with friends and family. In fact, this generation is 19 percent more likely to share content on Facebook. Brands can connect to this audience through baby boomer social media influencers. These seniors have the ability to make authentic and meaningful connections with their peers. If they are sharing your brand’s message and it resonates, then others are more likely to listen and then share the same content with their followers.
Unlike what many stereotypes lead you to believe, senior Americans are acclimating to technology just fine (albeit slowly). If a brand is hoping to reach this audience, they need to adapt by thinking outside traditional means. According to U.S. News and World Report, baby boomers control 70 percent of the nation’s disposable income. Companies that market luxury items need to seize this opportunity and expand their reach to this audience online. As the numbers show, marketing online shouldn’t be all about the millennial generation—seniors are the ones with the deep pockets.