At last year’s SAScon event in Manchester, one moment that stands out in my memory is a lengthy discussion about how to use social media to market products designed for older people. An attendee who worked either for or on behalf of a company that sold stairlifts was curious as to whether social media marketing was worthwhile considering the age group that usually uses them, and if so, what sort of tone should be used?
There remains a perception that social media is some sort of snazzy, new-fangled media that only young people use, and that to connect with its users, everything has to be fresh and ‘hip’. Marketers therefore often think they need to be using colloquial language or even textspeak, and giving their ads a postmodern feel in order to connect with the youthful users of this emerging platform.
Statistics show that this perception may be somewhat wide of the mark though, particularly for Facebook. In fact, although it remains the most popular social media site, Facebook is gradually drifting towards the ‘silver surfer’ section of internet users. A new report by eMarketer predicts that the number of Facebook users between the age of 12 and 24 will go down by 700,000 in 2018. At the same time, a total of 600,000 people over the age of 45 will sign up to the site, with half of these senior social newbies being 65 or older.
Likewise, the recent ‘Global social media research summary 2018’ by Smart Insights confirms that while younger people continue to dominate social media, the older section is no insignificant sector. As this chart shows, for Facebook, LinkedIn, YouTube and even Pinterest, people aged 55 to 64 make up a sizeable chunk of the overall user base.
This answers the first question of whether it is worthwhile using social media to target older consumers with a definite ‘yes’, but the question remains of what tone to use. Should social marketing towards the over-65s be a twee affair, featuring sober colours, big letters that are nice and easy to read, and slow-paced piano or trumpet music, much like the adverts you see during a break on Channel 4’s Countdown?
Those types of ads might work well towards elderly people who still use the television, radio and printed media as their main source of information and entertainment, but more and more seniors are embracing the internet and expect something different. They also don’t want to be patronised.
A 2009 study by Pew Research noted that in America, most ‘old’ people don’t feel particularly old. They tend to think of themselves as younger than they really are, so perhaps the marketing techniques used towards them can bear this in mind.
A tool often used by marketers is humour, and this is something older people certainly appreciate, but studies have shown they don’t always laugh at the same things as the youth. In a 2014 study, older TV viewers were found to be less amused by schadenfreude (bad things happening to other people) than their younger counterparts, and preferred humour that brought people together.
Tone is clearly something to be considered carefully if you hope to appeal to mature Facebook users, but the market is clearly there for social media advertising towards the elderly, and is growing by the day.