Where should you put your marketing $$?
The answer depends on age
Businesses of all sizes are investing heavily in social media these days. But which sites do top marketers think get you the best results? The answer likely varies depending on your age.
A recent study from Visual Objects finds 43 percent of millennial small business owners, for example, plan to boost investment in Instagram marketing. But that number goes way down to 25 percent for Gen Xers.
Such research points to a truism of marketing: you have to be in tune with what various generations are reading, watching or engaging with in social media.
Most young people – meaning millennials, Gen Xers and Gen Zers – have grown up in the digital age. Unlike Baby Boomers, who had to learn about technology as it came along, later generations think in technology terms. They wake up looking at smartphones. Check email and social media accounts several times a day. Pay for things from mobile wallets. Stream movies and videos from any connected device.
They’re also more likely to know what the hot social media platforms are at any given moment. So it makes sense that today’s youngest marketers would invest in platforms like Instagram that they use themselves whereas Baby Boomers might still be stuck sorting through posts on Facebook or Twitter.
So what can you learn from this as a small business owner?
The main takeaway should be that you, like young marketers in large companies, need to constantly think about which social media channels are the most popular for the generations of customers you’re targeting – and what they’re viewing on each of them. There are six living generations in the United States, all with very different experiences, interests and views on the world. And marketers typically focus their efforts on at least four of these age groups.
It’s called “generational marketing,” and it is really the only way to go with any social media campaign. Regardless of the age group you hail from, you must understand how each generation uses social media.
Pew Research Center issues reports on this every year. In Pew’s most recent survey, it found YouTube and Facebook still dominate the social media landscape across generations.
But the other sites that U.S. adults frequent often vary (sometimes widely) by generation. For example, Instagram and Snapchat are favored among 18 to 24-years old (75 and 73 percent respectively) but that popularity drops precipitously with the 25 to 29-year old age bracket, with 57 percent using Instagram and only 47 percent on Snapchat. And use of those sites drops considerably more for each subsequent generation.
It’s also important to know how the various age groups you care about are engaging with content in social media since those will be the channels you use to reach them. For example, a recent Epsilon-Conversant report notes millennials and Gen Zers are much more likely to be influenced by bloggers than other generations. The study also finds that Gen Z minors are the most likely to be influenced by celebrities for product information - but that this “steeply” falls off with each older generation.
How each generation embraces online video should be another consideration for every small business marketer. While people of all ages love video, we don’t all watch the same things in the same places. Gen Zers, for example, differ from older generations in saying that online videos are a key brand discovery platform – behind social media and websites, according to a recent study by the CMO Council and Pitney Bowes. Gen Z is also more likely than older groups to prefer interactive video, the report found. Other studies, by the way, suggest millennials and members of Generation X (the forgotten generation) are also huge consumers of video, especially for tutorials and how-to marketing content.
The bottom line is that while it’s great to understand your own generation as a marketer and to favor sites that you might patronize yourself, it’s critical to also research other age groups. At the end of the day, you should be trying to reach customers from many walks of life. Stay on top of how their online viewing habits and appetites change, and your business will be much better off for it.