Social Media: It’s not just for seniors

I am nearing another precipice of change, as I inch closer to changing to the next marketing demographic age group. I will no longer be able to check the same survey boxes when they ask age ranges. Strangely enough, even though I am a marketer, I could care less about what that means. It will not change who I am.

Long ago, when I had just turned 30 I had accompanied my mother on a shopping trip to a landscaping company. While she was inside selecting a variety of options for purchase, I was sitting outside on the edge of the parking lot with my dog. Just sitting on the ground playing with the puppy. I vividly remember laughing to myself thinking wow, this was not what I had previously thought a 30-year-old would do. In my previous vision, 30-year-olds would not be wearing shorts, sitting on the ground getting covered with a lovely paste made by grass clippings, dirt, pebbles and dog spit.

Just earlier today that image came to me as I was outside, sitting on the ground in our penned off area for the dogs while my two dogs did the same thing to me all these years later. Our visions of age demographics do not denote who we are, and how we will act. Our biases of how groups of people are supposed to act are often wrong, as most stereotypes are. Age is merely one piece of demographic data that makes up an audience. Making assumptions based on age, especially an age group we are not a part of, is ridiculous. It’s a key point to remember when involved in marketing.

Recent reports and studies show that one of the largest growing groups in social media usage, especially through mobile devices,  is seniors. Marketers and advertisers everywhere jumped on that as a new sign of adoption. But is it?

As generations age, their demographic shifts to the next brackets. That could explain social media growth in older groups. Social media permeates lives and is reaching more people more often, regardless of age.

As a person matures and crosses each of those imaginary lines denoting their demographic age bracket, they do not shed old habits overnight, and they do not adopt new ones overnight (except perhaps a few, such as turning 21 and being able to drink legally, and turning 50 and being able to get discount Tuesdays at many establishments). But for the most part, people carry their habits, tools, uses, interests into the next age bracket.

And much to the horror of marketers, when birthdays roll around I would venture to guess a shocking few consider the day marks the change of a demographic category. If you’re a marketer, feel free to take a moment and let that sink in. I know, it stings.

But the report noting that more seniors are using Social Media is amusing. Guess what people, there ARE more seniors. Every year there will be even more.  Who’d have thunk it. The question is, is it adoption rates or simply aging populations that skew the demographics of social media and mobile web usage?

Well, here’s another little tidbit that gets missed. Baby boomers are aging. They have been all along. I know, it’s confusing for most to think that these two things are related, but they sure are. Perhaps it’s that silly “semantics” thing again.  (Oh there’s more than a blog post brewing on that one, so many attribute stupidity issues to “semantics”!) Maybe most don’t realize that the Baby boomers are getting older is the same as an increase in seniors in the population. I’m not sure, but the overwhelming excitement about that report of seniors using social media was one of the dumbest things I’ve seen, so I have to imagine it’s a semantics disconnect (aka, brain fart).

We use social media platforms for many different things, and people who cross the 55-year-old demographic demarcation point use them for the same thing. Hell, even Linkedin since in case you haven’t been paying attention, or you’re exceptionally good at compartmentalizing tidbits of information, people 55+ work, WAY longer than they did during Richie Cunningham’s time, so chances are they’re networking and promoting businesses, too! They’re not wasting their time away playing games, (not that playing games is always wasting time, chess taught us strategy, as did risk and stratego, so there’s value in game playing,  I don’t mean to suggest there isn’t) they’re likely using these platforms exactly the way we do, each one with a generalized purpose and audience.

So as marketers, lets collectively think a little. Afterall, that’s why we call it marketing, because we think. (Darren Stevens–from Bewitched–used to think, even though he worked for an ADVERTISING agency, not a MARKETING one. But back then, advertising wasn’t just a tactic, it was an industry. Now that industry is marketing.) Let’s stop thinking of our target audience as preconceived data points and understand that they’re people, doing things that people do.

Look at Toyota. They got it. Those ads they run about kids “concerned” about their parents is great. In a series of 30 second TV spots they show what boomers do, even acknowledging that they’re on social media, and what their kids do or don’t, as the case may be. They’re not selling these cars to seniors, they’re selling them to their kids. I’d be willing to bet, however, that a number of well meaning kids will take their senior parents to a Toyota dealership to show them how this car will change them into social beings. It’s a great campaign. Of course, those same kids won’t buy an “old person’s” car, so maybe it’s not the best campaign for business, but it made me laugh and think, on someone else’s dime.

We need to stop thinking of social media as a phenomenon. It’s not a secret place that splits generations. If more seniors are using social media it’s likely that there are just plain more seniors. (Again, not sure you all knew this, since many seem to have missed the connection. We’re about to have WAY more seniors than non-seniors as the baby boomers age. That’s why organizations, industries, companies, and governments have been preparing FOR DECADES for the increase in seniors and what that generation, as it ages, will need and want.)

Seniors are people, too, who do more than look at pictures of their grandkids and play games on social media. They {gasp} use it the same way and for the same reasons the rest of us do, and have been using it! And as 40 somethings turn into 50 somethings turn into 60 somethings, more and more will.


About Laurissa Doonan

I'm a marketer. I've been a professional marketer for over 25 years, but in reality, I have always been one. Marketing to me is about communicating effectively, regardless of platform, regardless of channel. Marketing is understanding both your objectives and your audience, and finding the right method and message for your customers to reach them where they are. Now I dedicate my efforts to helping very small and small companies pursue their passions and grow their businesses through marketing; providing agency trained expertise without the overhead.
This entry was posted in Business & Strategy, Reactions (Stories), Serious Writings and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Social Media: It’s not just for seniors

  1. Speak for yourself. I don’t even pee standing up anymore.

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