‘Old’ people can be just as tech savvy as anyone else… and they’re open to advertising, too. As the age demographics of social networks get older, Emily Knox, Head of Social and Content at Tug, looks at how marketers can adapt to the rise of the social silver surfer.
You can sum up social networks with a general rule: platforms generally start out as the preserve of teens and young adults. Facebook, Instagram and Snapchat all started as the place to be for young people, with the average age at inception hovering between 13 and 25. That cycle has continued as social media has proliferated, with TikTok – the latest GenZ hotspot – remaining fairly impenetrable to the majority of over-18s.
And yet older internet users are increasingly popping up in comments across the web – to the chagrin of many a young relative. The surge of older generations entering the once almost exclusively youthful social media sphere may be ruining the sanctity of these platforms for young people – but it represents a real shot in the arm for revenue. Social media migrants Looking at the numbers, the size of social media migration is fairly staggering. 700,000 Facebook users in the UK between the ages of 12 and 24 will leave the platform this year – whilst 500,000 new over-55s will join, making them the second most prominent demographic on the social network. More broadly, whilst only 19% of internet users aged 75 and older used social media back in 2015, that figure is now 41% – with the very same percentage of over-65s using Facebook in particular.
To put it bluntly, this influx of oldies is driving the kids away.There are numerous reasons for this demographic shift – whether it’s a backlash against feeling ‘watched’ by older relatives, an increasing resistance to unrealistically airbrushed lifestyles, or even the technology behind the sites. Platforms like Facebook are increasingly catering to older generations, prioritising personal news from friends and family rather than the more diverse content – like news, entertainment and memes – which young people conventionally enjoy.
All this means young people are increasingly heading to more authentic and spontaneous platforms such as Snapchat and TikTok – very much the polar opposite of immaculately cultivated platforms like Instagram.
The rise of the silver surfer
The online sway of the older generation is only set to grow further as the global population balance continues to skew. By 2020, the world will have more over 55-year-olds than under 5-year-olds, with older people generating half all global urban consumption between 2015 and 2030. Increasingly, that consumption is happening online. 68% of over 55s buy something online every month.
And yet despite their numbers and buying power, most ads fail to target older people – only 5% of US ads are aimed at over 50s – and the ones that do are often getting it wrong. 89% of older people surveyed believe brands just aren’t interested in them, and a further 86% want ads that target them to change. There’s a range of complaints, from excessive airbrushing to an overemphasis on the negative aspects of ageing: a sizeable 31% of older people believe ads are flat-out ageist.
Some brands, however, are getting it right. A key part of that is generating social media campaigns advertising based on concrete insights: TENA Men, for example, used a humorous video campaign to distribute 25,000 samples in 6 months thanks to first party data. Jockey Club, for their part, focussed on creativity aimed at highlighting older talent, relying on clear messaging around their sporting focus – rather than the age of their clientele.
Behaviour-led strategy your grandma would be proud of
No matter how threatened young people might feel from senior engagement online, advertisers and brands alike stand to benefit. Older audiences are noticeably more brand-oriented than their younger peers – they’re also more loyal, and far more keen to receive targeted educational content. Their low use of ad blockers and other strict privacy tools, combined with increased social media use, makes them the perfect consumer. So how do advertisers get content right for older audiences? First off, it’s crucial marketers don’t just use the same material for everyone else with different images or slightly altered copy. The senior market has distinct likes and dislikes, just like any other group, so it’s important to create bespoke messaging for them. In our experience that creative should be simple and direct, with a strong, clear narrative. Older audiences want to get right to the point and distinguish a product from its competitors so they can make speedy decisions.
But tailored and to the point doesn’t mean dull. Like any other group, older consumers want relatable, aspirational content – and if you don’t take them into consideration, you’re skipping a large chunk of the market. So forget being down with the kids – get giddy with the biddies.
By Emily Knox
Head of Social and Content