With the rise of the internet — and the more-recent domination of social media — we’ve often heard that older people simply aren’t getting on board. As recently as last year, just 37 percent of people over age 65 said they used any social media, compared to nearly 90 percent of those in the 18-to-29 age group who make it a habit to visit social media sites.
In the past few years, voice assistants and home automation also have gained steam as new ways to communicate, shop and entertain ourselves. As with past technological advances, the conventional wisdom holds that older folks will be late adopters. In fact, “SNL” — proclaimer of all things cultural — has poked fun at seniors’ supposed inability to use devices like the Amazon Echo.
The truth is that while older adults still lag behind other demographic groups in adopting technology in general, they increasingly are communicating and getting their news via social media. In addition, artificial intelligence-powered voice assistants like Google Home and Echo are becoming part of their lives.
What should you know about how seniors are using these new technologies, and what strategies can you incorporate into your marketing plan to continue engaging the senior market?
Getting comfortable with new platforms
Increasingly, seniors are growing comfortable with making social media and voice assistants important parts of their lives. From communicating to shopping, learning, banking and enjoying entertainment, these new channels are gaining prominence with an older audience. Among social media platforms, Facebook continues to dominate with seniors, but Twitter and Instagram are gaining steam. More than half of people over 50 are now getting their news from social media.
More seniors also have made Google Home, Echo, Apple’s Home Pod and other “smart” gadgets part of their residential decor. Older adults are getting news and weather forecasts, listening to podcasts, shopping, communicating with friends and family members, and monitoring their thermostats and security systems with this new technology category.
Seniors’ broadening comfort with new technologies has marketers expanding their efforts. By shifting resources from traditional marketing channels to social media and voice assistants, businesses are saving time and money.
Targeting seniors on social media
Marketers historically have not devoted significant portions of social media budgets to older demographics. Across social media platforms, millennials and generation Z have been the predominant users. However, generation X and baby boomers continue to join various platforms, often at the expense of other media formats such as newspapers and magazines. There’s no denying that the time is right to target an older market on social media.
An experienced agency can work with you to determine the right media mix for your marketing dollars. In general, Facebook remains the best social media site for reaching older users, with 62 percent of users older than 65 visiting the platform.
For marketers, it’s vital to understand that older people use social media differently. For younger users, Facebook and other social media platforms are places to post selfies and give their opinions. Older users, on the other hand, often prefer to share media — including articles, videos and photos — from other sources.
To reach seniors on Facebook, consider posting newsworthy, shareable content. Interesting and funny videos and photos, along with concise articles, are quick and easy to review and share with friends.
Integrating voice search capability
Research has found that consumers are adapting their habits to the increasing availability of voice search, and use of smart speakers like Echo skyrocketed over the past year. To reach seniors via these new, voice-controlled platforms, it’s vital to understand the mechanics of voice queries.
Terms like, “Hey, Google, how do I…?” or “Alexa, tell me about…” signal voice searches. Artificial intelligence technology, increasingly used in voice assistants, is even beginning to “learn” to recognize inflection and tone of voice to tailor searches.
By working with your marketing agency to understand the differences in search queries across platforms, you can take important steps toward better engagement with your target audience.
To reach the senior market on social media and voice platforms, consider these tips:
- Don’t try to be all things to all people. By specializing, you can build your brand and reach a high-quality audience of influencers who are more likely to share your content.
- Take time to build a strong presence. Social media success won’t happen instantly.
- Be sure to listen and engage. Today’s social media users expect a true conversation rather than a one-way presentation.
Work with your agency to specialize search queries for voice assistants and other platforms.