{{ searchResult.published_at | date:'d MMMM yyyy' }}

Loading ...
Loading ...

Enter a search term such as “mobile analytics” or browse our content using the filters above.

No_results

That’s not only a poor Scrabble score but we also couldn’t find any results matching “”.
Check your spelling or try broadening your search.

Logo_distressed

Sorry about this, there is a problem with our search at the moment.
Please try again later.

It can be argued that over 50s are one of the final demographics not to be very well understood in terms of their relational social media behaviour with brands.

In the very early years of social, very few begged to ask the question or look into how brands can engage older consumers. It was assumed that they weren’t on the channels at all. 

And then the reports started coming through; the ‘Silver Surfers’ (a term I've always found slightly patronising) were flocking in droves! It's a topic the Econsultancy has touched on before in a post looking at six design tips for making your website senior friendly.

But, like a horse without a cart, no one really nailed how to reach them in any meaningful way. 

What is it about this group of people that makes it so difficult to understand how they interact (if at all) with brands on social networks?

It’s important to note that social behaviour does not necessarily mean online behaviour (search, shopping, time spent, etc). A particularly thorough Kantar Media TGI Clickstream study showed over 50s as being ‘practical’ in their online habits.  

They are online for specific reasons, browsing the same few sites for research and looking up products based on recommendations from friends. It begs the question: is it worth targeting such a pragmatic audience on social channels if they're not interested in the fluff?

It depends on what you’re trying to get out of them. 

If it’s quality, positive engagement between person and brand, all signs point to disappointment. The recent closure of Saga’s own social network for abusive bullying and resourcing issues, Sagazone, is testament to that.

However, if it’s a chance to position your brand front and centre for awareness, we potentially have something to work with.

With Facebook and Twitter offering increasingly more intelligent platforms for biddable targeting, marketers have more a chance than ever to at least have their content seen by their target audiences.

A strong, relevant content strategy will help reinforce the messaging. Seven released figures last year showing 57% of British adults feel more positive towards brands who generate content aimed specifically for them.

As with any strategy, there will always be a few issues. While we can ensure the content is being seen by the right age demographic, there’s not much in the way of sentiment tracking. A passive audience is not always a positive audience. 

Ironically, when targeting an older demographic with current social platforms, marketers must look at more traditional methods of measurement. Success cannot hang solely on Facebook reach numbers alone. 

Melanie Seasons

Published 28 February, 2014 by Melanie Seasons

Melanie Seasons is Community Innovation Director at social media agency Onlinefire and a contributor to Econsultancy. You can follow her on Twitter or connect via LinkedIn.

3 more posts from this author

Comments (17)

Comment
No-profile-pic
Save or Cancel
James Perrin

James Perrin, Digital Communications Specialist at Feefo

Interesting stuff Melanie. It's a really difficult one. I've found Content Marketing works really well, but it needs to be created with the upmost accuracy and sensitivity - and the topic needs to be spot on. Engagement is a lot less - so maybe that goes to suggest that Social Media certainly is tough cookie to crack, but not so much when it comes to biddable targeting, as you've mentioned. Great post, thanks.

almost 3 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Dan Williamson

So - write for your audience. Words to live by.

almost 3 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Rachel Allen, Digital Development Manager at AXA

At Sun Life Direct we've been able to work effectively with this audience by working with carefully selected partners who are already successful in this space - this had meant that we have been able to identify a content strategy that not only engages (at its peak we've seen almost 30% of the base commenting/liking etc.) but also supports our brand and helps us provide customer service wherever the customer wants it

almost 3 years ago

Melanie Seasons

Melanie Seasons, Senior Content and Campaigns Manager at JUST EATEnterprise

That's really interesting, Rachel. Have you done biddable targeting along with the content strategy?

almost 3 years ago

Pete Austin

Pete Austin, CINO at Fresh Relevance

50s-60s are not "seniors" or "silver surfers". This is the cohort that includes Bill Gates of Microsoft and the late Steve Jobs of Apple.

People who are 50-60 now are those who bought the Sinclair Spectrum, Commodore 64, Atari VCS or Apple II when they were Students at High School or University.

I would place "seniors" or "silver surfers" as people who are 65+ and missed out on leisure computing until very late in life.

almost 3 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Rachel Allen, Digital Development Manager at AXA

Hi Melanie - yes do also do biddable targeting as we find that Facebook in particular works well for us

almost 3 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Rachel Allen, Digital Development Manager at AXA

I would also agree with Pete's point that there is a huge difference between 50 - 65 and the 65 and over base. Its just marketing - understand your customer and their needs and you are half way there.

almost 3 years ago

Melanie Seasons

Melanie Seasons, Senior Content and Campaigns Manager at JUST EATEnterprise

Definitely a good point about 50-65, but I'd argue that it's difficult to quantify how much and how often that age group interacts with brands online. They may see information, but do they do anything meaningful with it? Perhaps the accompanying image is a bit misleading!

almost 3 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

June Dobbs, Freelance Internet Consultant at Self

Interesting. If you find the term 'silver surfers' patronising, have you ever thought how lazy it is to lump everyone over 50 into one group? (A much larger group than 16-24s of course, with a lot more spending power). Would you ever consider marketing to the 'under 50's'? No, thought not. Perhaps you could be a little less generic and insulting in your thought processes. You might find that many people between the ages of 50-100 have been using pc's, mobile phones, the web, social media etc. a lot longer than you have. Someone of 60 is not the same as someone of 90, just as someone of 10 is not the same as someone of 40. Nothing happens to you when you have you're 50th birthday, except you get REALLY angry at being patronised by the 'under-50s'. Hey kids, some of us even invented the web. Loving the stock photo by the way, though I can't remember the last time I sat and shared my laptop with my husband. We have our own! And I've got a smartphone too - get me!

almost 3 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Claire C

What June said.

The mind boggles over why as soon as someone hits 50 they are suddenly decrepit and can't turn a computer on. Even the 65+ comments are inappropriate - there are plenty people in their sixties that are extremely comfortable online.

Skills and knowledge gaps surrounding technology can apply to people of all ages. Young people can be difficult to reach, just as older people can be. It's not about age, it's about delivering things that will interest and be relevant to your audience.

almost 3 years ago

Margaret Robertson

Margaret Robertson, European Marketing Director at Canvas Holidays

I tend to agree with Pete Austin that the description of over 50s is too broad, and with all age based targetting it is a bit of a blunt instrument.
As Rachel says and is as true now as it ever was, good marketing means understanding the characteristics of your own customer base and finding the best way to reach them.
So creating relevant content is key, and being present in relevant channels is also important. Engagement via social may not be as immediate as with other target groups, but this depends more on whether the product is a spontaneous or considered purchase.
Some of the tone of the article, perhaps unintentionally, seemed a bit patronising, or lacking in an understanding of changes in employment and pension trends,which mean that many of us over 50s are hitting our stride after a career break, may or may not be empty nesters but many of us are actively participating in the workplace.
Looking at my own Twitter timeline, it is full of over 50s and over 60s contributing to debate, and with the right topics happy to be engaged in social and community forums. And yes - a different image would have helped !

almost 3 years ago

Melanie Seasons

Melanie Seasons, Senior Content and Campaigns Manager at JUST EATEnterprise

Really interesting comments and debate. However, I think a lot of people are missing the point - it's not about whether any over 50 understands or uses a computer, it's about whether they interact with brands online.

almost 3 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Derek Rocholl

Interesting stuff. I too think that age banding is pretty arbitrary in this space to the point of being a complete red herring. As a 53 year old with a wide circle of contacts in the same age band and others no-one I know who is in their 50s feels, behaves or interacts with brands as a "senior". In many respects it is an age group that is far more adventurous than the younger generations and hates being pigeon holed and stereotyped.

almost 3 years ago

Margaret Robertson

Margaret Robertson, European Marketing Director at Canvas Holidays

Melanie - glad to see a different picture ! Just to clarify my comment was that for many businesses ( ours as an example ) the success of any channel interaction is more about the content and relevancy of the message to the target audience and understanding the motivations to purchase, than the channel or the age group targeted.

From our experience I think 50-65s as are as channel agnostic as 35-50s, and my point is more that the age demographic is of less relevance than other factors .
I agree that accepted wisdom might suggest that you would get more immediate interaction online with a younger demographic, but looking at developments in the retail space, growth of apps, development of new websites ( John Lewis, M& S ) and the increase we see in mobile and tablet conversion across all target groups, all point to online engagement across all ages.
Perhaps a more interesting question might be whether the under 30s interact with brands offline ?

almost 3 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Carri Bugbee

Several commenters here have already made excellent points about the patronizing tone of this post and the obvious ignorance reflected regarding 50+ consumers. The parallel would be to suggest that marketing to anyone under 30 should be a big question mark because their tastes are fleeting and they have little buying power. You know, those fickle youngsters will click on any old random thing whether they have any intention (or ability) to buy or not, so that’s a waste of marketing effort.

The point is, you can’t take a single, marginally relevant data point, wonder aloud about the implications, then extrapolate on that to draw specious conclusions and call it analysis. I’ve come to expect better from Econsultancy. When I see content like this I have to wonder if that confidence has been misplaced.

Isn’t Econsultancy in the BUSINESS of offering professional analysis? If so, shouldn’t the standards be a lot higher?

almost 3 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Joe Butson

Melanie,

Please re-write this piece and consider the advice you've received here as more insight than you managed to distill in your piece. It was not an inspired article but insipid.

Without the data to back your thesis, you've rendered what might be important and interesting anything but.

I assure you that readers haven't missed the point. I think you are grasping for justification when you ought to be retracting.

Show us the data and attribution analysis so we can see you are credible.

almost 3 years ago

Avatar-blank-50x50

Paul Duxbury

Melanie I am afraid I agree with many of those who have already commented that the article feels very patronising.

As someone who is just over 50 I haven't lost my ability to use any of the technology and I continue to interact with brands online in the same way I did a few years ago.

In fact I would probably say that I have more interaction with them now online than I do on the telephone and not because of failing hearing!

If I have an issue with a supplier, want to give them feedback or get an answer about product availability etc then my first port of call is normally their Twitter feed.

So perhaps some evidence to support the underlying contention that those of us who have passed an arbitrary age need to be dealt with differently might be useful?

over 2 years ago

Comment
No-profile-pic
Save or Cancel
Daily_pulse_signup_wide

Enjoying this article?

Get more just like this, delivered to your inbox.

Keep up to date with the latest analysis, inspiration and learning from the Econsultancy blog with our free Daily Pulse newsletter. Each weekday, you ll receive a hand-picked digest of the latest and greatest articles, as well as snippets of new market data, best practice guides and trends research.