Older Americans Slowly Warming Up to Social Media

Discussion
Nov 11, 2013
Tom Ryan

A new study of social media habits shows that Boomers and older generations are increasingly curious about online social networking yet also increasingly frustrated with websites.

In its e-book, Social, Silver Surfers, Creating Results, the digital marketing agency, first examined the digital attitudes of older adults in 2010. At that time, they surveyed Americans over 40 about what they were doing on websites and social networks, and how they felt about these channels. The agency repeated the process this year to see how respondents’ views changed with the rise in social networking activity overall.

Unfortunately for brands and retailers, one notable non-change is the resistance of older adults to engaging with organizations via social networks. Only 14 percent of all 40+ Americans surveyed in 2010 said they wanted to be a brand’s friend/follower, etc.; 19 percent said "Maybe." In 2013, only 10 percent said "Yes" and 22 percent said "Maybe."

Other highlights of the study:

  • More respondents in 2013 versus 2010 expressed frustration with websites, citing a larger number of pet peeves. The number one turn-off cited was the requirement to register in order to get information — 79 percent complained about this practice.
  • Eighty-six percent of all respondents reported concerns about privacy and security when filling out a form online. The most worried are older Baby Boomers and those with children over the age of 18 at home.
  • "Email a Friend" is the most popular sharing tool, used by a reported 77 percent of all ages. "Share with Your Network" widgets are used by only 26 percent of all ages.
  • As in 2010, offline connections are the primary reason for an older adult to try online social networking, but "Curiosity" increased significantly as a driver for social networking by 65+ seniors — 22 percent of Silent Generation respondents and 33 percent of Greatest Generations cited this as a reason for trial.

"Whether it’s on a website or a social platform, older adults are telling us they want respect," said Todd Harff, president of Creating Results and co-director of the national study. "They’re busy, and are demanding simple, easy to navigate websites. They don’t want self-promotional blather mucking up their social streams."

The research included more than 800 online polls, offline intercept surveys and video interviews with 40+ internet users.

How would you rate social media as a tool for brands and retailers to reach 40+ Americans? How should the approach differ for connecting with these consumers versus those in the generations that follow?

Please practice The RetailWire Golden Rule when submitting your comments.

Join the Discussion!

10 Comments on "Older Americans Slowly Warming Up to Social Media"


Sort by:   newest | oldest | most voted
Tom Redd
Guest
6 years 2 months ago

The main tool is email for the older crowd. Since I am around many of “over 60” crowd due to my location – this group is more into email and far from tweets and twits.

Now I am a tweeter (or is it twitter-er-er?)…Tom… #reddretail

Marie haines
Guest
6 years 2 months ago

I am a young boomer and use Facebook as my primary tool to keep in touch. Phone texting is the next level, with very few of my contemporaries using email anymore. Facebook is the way I keep in touch (and track the activities of) with younger family members who rarely use email. These days my email is mostly work related, ads, and other more official communications.

I dislike my social media being cluttered up with ads and “likes” for a store or brand. I even have an email address just for promos, offers, and signup required websites. The only times I “like’ a brand is to get a discount or entered to win something. Then I unfriend the site as soon as possible!

Ralph Jacobson
Guest
6 years 2 months ago

I would say that older folks, across the globe, by the way, are rapidly connecting online. I don’t see this as a “slow” trend. One example is in this MediaPost article that states U.S. 55+ moms are exceeding the online presence of younger people, including via social media.

Tim Cote
Guest
6 years 2 months ago

The bigger news in the above chart is even Gen X people really don’t want to engage with a brand via social networks.

People love social media as long as they don’t have to pay for it, either in cash, or in advertising clutter. As much as brands may not want to hear it, in large part social media efforts may actually be alienating people more than creating a bond with them

jack crawford
Guest
jack crawford
6 years 2 months ago

As a leading edge boomer, I use e-mail for friends and business. No interest in Twitter or anything similar – none of my friends use it. I don’t purchase from websites for the same reasons already mentioned and also find products on website usually more expensive even if they have free shipping. I’m finding retail stores now are willing to ship a product free if they don’t have it in stock. This is a bonus since I can actually see it/touch it and get it just as quickly as ordering from a website if not immediately available.

Lee Kent
Guest
6 years 2 months ago

I am a 60+ boomer and let me say that most all of my friends are on Pinterest as well as Facebook. They hate to have their emails clogged with ads and are more likely to entertain that kind of stuff in a more contextual way on Pinterest and Facebook.

They want to know where the sales are and more importantly what is relevant to them. The problem is, they don’t really buy as much for themselves as they do for others. (children, grandchildren, elderly parents) That makes it harder to get those targeted ads to them but guess what? They understand that and are a lot more tolerant than the younger generations who are very ‘me’ focused.

No, they don’t tweet, but they do text, though they prefer to use ‘their words’. They totally appreciate the ease of communicating this way.

Should retail be looking at social media as a tool for these folks? You betcha!

Eric Chester
Guest
Eric Chester
6 years 2 months ago

Currently, I find that most shopping sites are homogenous clones of each other.

I think this is because most online retailers approach consumers as a one-size-fits-all demographic. But different age groups have completely different preferences when it comes to registering for incentives, dealing with pop-ups, navigating through shopping carts and shipping options, etc.

Not everyone can be lumped into the same sales funnel.

Pretty soon, online retailers will be forced to offer varying shopping experiences to meet the needs of their customers from different demographics.

Karen S. Herman
Guest
6 years 2 months ago

Very interesting study. It clearly indicates that brands and retailers need to take a simpler, straightforward approach to reach 40+ consumers through social networking channels.

And, to be candid, I believe most consumers dislike self-promotional blather in their social streams, regardless of their age group.

What I find intriguing here is the sizeable increase in the curiosity factor for 65+ seniors to try social networking. This creates a nice opportunity for brands and retailers to reach, educate and convert them. The Amazon 50+ Active and Healthy Living is a great example.

Shep Hyken
Guest
6 years 2 months ago

When the airlines came out with online ticketing and check-in, there was a learning curve. It took several years, but the majority of people now buy tickets online. While there are still people working the ticket counters at airports, it is a fraction of the number from years ago. Same with the people in reservations. The point is that if there is a new mode of communication (such as social media), all ages, young and old, will migrate to it.

Christopher P. Ramey
Guest
6 years 2 months ago

My experience is that most Baby Boomers are engaged online and in some sort of social media. Unlike younger adults, it doesn’t rule their life and they don’t check Facebook every hour. But is it how they often communicate with their grandchildren. To that point, the greatest influencers in their lives (their children) are actively online. So they are online.

Time is currency and Boomers are busy – particularly affluent Boomers. Brands are less important because ‘status’ and consumption becomes increasingly less important. Consequently, brands shouldn’t expect engagement as marketing experts might define it today.

In my opinion, and considering historic consumption patterns, social media will soon plateau and engagement will appear as more of an arc.

wpDiscuz

Take Our Instant Poll

How important a tool is social media for brands and retailers to connect with Baby Boomers?

View Results

Loading ... Loading ...