Two weeks ago I visited my parents in Rye, East Sussex. It was my mother’s 69th birthday and we sat in the garden waiting for my dad to light the barbecue. The sun was shining and the prosecco was flowing. As usual, Mum had done pretty well on the present front, but the highlight had to be her sparkling new iPad. I was expecting the usual barrage of questions about ‘how do I work the bloody thing?’. But to my surprise Mum knew exactly what to do. Before long she was updating her profile on Facebook, chatting with friends on Messenger and laughing at (mainly cat) videos.
I was confused. Fifteen years of media groupthink had taught me that social media was for Millennials not Baby Boomers. So why wasn’t Mum watching re-runs of Midsomer Murders on ITV3 like the rest of her crowd? Was Mum unique (in many ways she is, bless her) or was her behaviour indicative of other Baby Boomers? So I decided to do some research...
It turns out Mum is a ‘Social Senior’, that is to say a Baby Boomer who spends over 15 hours per week online and has their own social media profile. Unsurprisingly, the majority of Social Seniors are to be found on Facebook, with YouTube a close second. The percentage of UK 65-75 year olds on Facebook and YouTube is 61% and 54% respectively (source: weareflint 2018). This trend is likely to continue as the over 55s make up more of Facebook’s total audience - 2013: 13% to 2017 22% (source: IPSOS) and Teens and Millennials continue to leave the social platform in 2018 (source: Bloomberg) and beyond.
So if Baby Boomers are increasingly heavy users of social, then what are brands doing to connect with them on social platforms? Well, apparently, not an awful lot. A recent Google study highlighted that Millennials receive 156% more ad budget on YouTube than Social Seniors. But it’s not refined to just YouTube. Baby Boomers as a whole seem less important to brands as marketers remained focused on Millennials. A recent report from Wave Three asked marketers how much of their budgets were allocated against each of the generations alive today. It turns out 34% of total marketing spend targets Millennials. This number increased to 39% when traditional media channels were excluded. This might not seem so bad until you consider the fact that Millennials only represent 24% of consumer spending. Which leads me on to my next point. Just how valuable an audience are Baby Boomers?
In the UK the over 65s represent 18% of the population, yet incredibly they control around 50% of the UK’s wealth (source: ONS & Resolution Foundation). In fact, in the US the National Automobile Dealers Association has stated that one Baby Boomer is worth economically four Millennials, with Baby Boomers controlling 70% of all consumer spending. And it’s not just Bricks and Mortar spending either. KPMG’s 2017 Online Consumer Report highlighted that Baby Boomers shopped online as frequently as Millennials and actually spent on average more per transaction than both Millennials and Generation X. Their most popular categories were: Healthcare, Cosmetics, Furniture, Household Goods and Perfume/Aftershave.
So what can brands do to make the most of the Social Senior opportunity? Well understanding how Baby Boomers behave online is a good place to start. A recent Fractl survey highlighted that Baby Boomers are 19% more likely to share content than any other generation. This is a great place for brands to start, particularly those producing video, as 3 in 4 Baby Boomers claim to have taken action as a result of watching online video (source: Google/IPSOS). Social Seniors also want to stay mentally and physically active, with learning new things high on their collective agenda. Brands that can create video content that helps Baby Boomers stay fit and healthy while educating and entertaining them will be front of mind and more likely to be shared with their friends. And while Social Seniors have a much more positive online experience, (72% vs 56% of All Adults source: Ofcom) 20% of them lack confidence online - much higher than the average 7%. So brands that can help maintain a positive online experience and help Social Seniors build their confidence will be well placed to make the most of the Baby Boomer Social opportunity.
So let’s raise a glass of prosecco to my mum, debunker of media myths and shunner of ITV3 repeats.