The New Social Media Addicts (Are Not Who You Would Think)
Madeleine Coe | On 14, Feb 2017
Given the number of times your mother has asked the difference between The Face Book and Tweeter (or maybe this is a question you’ve asked to your Millennial and Gen Z offspring), it comes as a surprise to many that Millenials aren’t the most active on social media sites. Upending the assumption that the younger crowd is responsible for the heaviest activity, the users that average almost seven hours a day on social media sites are Generation Xers.
“Generation X (ages 35-49) spends the most time on social media: almost 7 hours per week versus Millennials, who come in second, spending just over 6 hours per week. They’re female, 25% of their time online is spent on social media (vs.19% of males), and they reach across cultures. They’re likely to be on Facebook on Sundays via smartphone, while watching primetime.” – Sean Casey, president, Nielsen Social.
Gen X kids were among the first to experience childhood with more than three TV channels, a home computer, and entered adulthood right after the birth of the Internet, so it makes sense that they are tech-savvy. Entering the workforce in the era of the dot-com boom means they have been expected to adapt to rapid changes in technology, influencing not only their means of communicating in the business sphere but also their personal life. From keeping tabs on their freshman-in-college daughter’s status updates to connecting with hometown friends to keeping up with spoilers from their favorite HBO show, social media is where these middle-aged cool cats are hanging.
As a matter of fact, Gen X media consumption across all media channels is higher on average than any other age group, according to a recent report from Nielsen. Adweek alleges that Gen X “has been disproportionately overlooked by brands and marketers.” So why not show them a little more love? Gen X is best reached by a combination of both traditional and digital media sources.
This should also be reflected in your social media advertising strategy. According to a Business Insider Intelligence report, Gen X comes up just short of Millenials in terms of online retail purchases. So if Gen X is spending more time online, but still not spending as much through mobile and e-commerce despite higher incomes, then targeting is part of the issue. Companies should be taking advantage of these behaviors with the integration of robust digital marketing campaigns as part of their overall strategy for this age group.
Gen X has been historically overlooked by media companies. It could be because the Gen X population is smaller than both the Millennial and Baby Boomer groups, and their status as a group is often murky. They occupy a space that is post-Boomer and just on the cusp of Millennial, sandwiched between the two monoliths; a transitional generation without a strong sense of belonging, so they’re a little harder to nail down for messaging. However, they are now firmly established in their lives with attractive income levels and buying power, so tailoring ads to this segment will reap significant rewards as they tend to be brand loyalists.
“Others have been concerned that Gen X isn’t going to give you the ROI, but we’re not afraid to target them,” says Tom Peyton, avp, advertising at Honda in an article from AdWeek. “Gen X is not quite as big and sexy [as Millennials], but at the end of the day, they are prime time in their income and they can buy a lot of expensive new cars.”
Gen Xers have the expectation that everything is on demand and will actively seek out information regarding products and remain vocal about those they do or don’t like. In the Nielsen report, 39% of heavy social users (those with 3 or more hours of online activity per day) ranked discovering new products and services as an important reason for using a social network. The report also found that 29% of heavy users believe supporting their favorite brands is somewhat to very important, making it easy for brand loyalists to show their support and share content.
Consider finding your Gen X audience through simultaneous campaigns to capture their attention. Being avid television consumers does not make them more likely to put down their smartphone; they are a social TV audience who engage in what is known as “second screen” activity, browsing their social networks when they get home and while enjoying their favorite TV shows.
In conclusion, it would be wise to target this demographic of so-called social media junkies. As Boomers’ dispensable income disappears into retirement savings accounts and Millennials work on reaching a place of income stability in a turbulent global marketplace, Gen X holds much of the consumer spending that marketers are seeking to capture.
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