According to The Global State of Digital 2021 (recent research by We Are Social) the over-50s segment is growing faster than any other age group on social media; and not just on Facebook, but on platforms like Snapchat too.
The sheer intuitiveness of smartphones and tablets – coupled with the fact that it’s pretty much impossible to conduct the business of daily life without some kind of social media account – means that increased uptake of digital technologies feels inevitable, while lockdowns across the world have also played a part in bringing the non-digital-native, older generation up to speed in the online world.
So there it is rendered in data: the so-called ‘Silver Surfers’ are FaceTiming, Instagramming, messaging, shopping … everything you might expect from a full digital life.
We Are Social’s research also shows that social media – for all ages – could soon surpass search engines as the means for consumers to discover products and conduct brand research. So while it’s certainly interesting to see that trend of “older generations taking to social” confirmed in a stat, it also means we’re long overdue in considering if the digital and social media space is really doing that generation justice.
A Matter of Representation
There’s some real bias at work behind the lack of representation of older generations in advertising. According to a 2019 report from the AARP, although more than a third of the United States population is older than 50, only 15 per cent of media images feature people over 50 years of age. The AARP’s findings are even more telling around tech: while 69% of people between the ages of 55 and 73 own a smartphone, less than 5 per cent of the images showed older generations using technology.
We’ve talked before about the need for greater diversity in marketing and the benefits of getting authentic customer content right for marketers. Addressing the question around generational representation is a crucial factor in redressing that balance.
With an ever-increasing number of silver surfers now getting on and thriving online, it figures then that the content generated by users for the gallery we’ve built for clothing company Damart features a broad spectrum of contributions.
And users are liking what they see: since Damart started curating and celebrating their User-generated content they’ve seen a 118% uplift in Session Duration (versus traffic that hasn’t seen StoryStream content) and a 2.3% uplift in average order value when a user engages with a StoryStream StoryBoard.
Closing the gap
Along similar lines, I find myself returning to this recent exchange between customers on our client Boden’s Facebook site:
‘My catalogue just arrived. It would be great to see some variety of body shapes’
‘I totally agree. Would be lovely to see their clothes on the people who actually wear them. Would definitely encourage me to buy them.’
‘Agreed, this is why I look at the Gallery before I buy clothes. The photos are much more realistic.’
It’s so heartening to see the effect that User-generated Content has on consumers first-hand. And it’s why we talk about UGC as part of a virtuous circle: consumers interact more readily and more enthusiastically with brands when they see themselves reflected in their marketing.
It’s clear now that the cliches around older generations and technology have an ever-shortening shelf life; it’s a form of ageism that won’t soon be missed.
But brands do risk missing a huge opportunity with the silver surfers – millennials account for just 18% of (U.S) consumer spending, compared to the 40% spent by ‘Active Agers’ (research from Age of Majority, who also identify and debunk a number of myths about older consumers).
To borrow and adapt a line from history – it’s time for brands to ask not what the boomer generation can do for them, but what they can do for the boomers.
Photo thanks to Matthew Bennett.