New strategies for the Social Boomer

Over the holidays, we decided to listen to some nice restful music, so we dusted off a bunch of old 78s, scrounged up a workable needle and listened to The Doors, Grateful Dead and some early Stones.

So good, our son even came in to listen and everything was going great until he innocently asked who Jim Morrison was.

Come on kid, we’re only a boomer, not an ancient.

It made us think that boomer, boomer+ is not only good but man there are a lot of us. To be precise, there are about 2 billion on the planet and more than 120 million in the U.S. alone. That’s roughly one-third of the buying public.

So why is marketing rushing to attract our kid…he still gets most of his money by asking us!Sure, we know we’re aging; but there’s no way we’re going to get old.

We plan to retire, but certainly not on the same schedule as our parents and grandparents. We’ll do it when we get really old…you know 70, 75. Back when we were growing up, we used to say, “Don’t trust anyone over 30.” Now it’s “don’t trust anyone under 40.”

O.K., maybe our kids…just maybe. But that’s only when we’re having “issues” with our smartphone or tablet.

According to Accenture, baby boomers are taking hold of and using technology nearly 20 times faster than earlier generations. They have their mobile devices, their online services and they’re not afraid to use them.

Just don’t forget who bought the devices at our house.

According to a study by JWT BOOM, boomers account for 70 percent of the U.S. net worth, controlling more than $9T.

Over the next 15 years, the 50-64 age population will grow by 50 per cent and 65+ers will grow by 3 per cent; while the combined Gen X/Y population will only grow a lousy 3 per cent.

Yeah, that’s attitude kid…and buying power!

While product/service marketers see their big potential in the young, hip Accenture found:

• Baby Boomers are embracing consumer technology applications nearly 20 times faster than the younger generation.

• Generation Y’s cravings for consumer technology applications are leveling off.

• Boomers increased their rate of reading blogs and listening to podcasts by 67 per cent year-over-year – nearly 80 times faster than Gen Y (1 per cent)

• Boomers posted a 59 per cent increase in use of social networking sites, more than 30 times faster than Gen Y (2 per cent)

• Boomers increased watching/posting videos on the Internet by 35 per cent, while Gen Y usage decreased slightly (-2 percent).

• Boomers accelerated playing video games on the go via mobile devices by 52 per cent, 20 times faster than Gen Y (2 per cent).

• Boomers growth rate in listening to music on an iPod or other portable music player was 49 percent, more than four times faster than Gen Y (12 per cent).

So despite what Zuck says, boomers do go online and what they do on what device matters…a lot.

It suggest that the boomers are climbing aboard this bandwagon on all fronts to add life-enriching experiences as well as remain intellectually and technologically literate, versatile and job-skill competitive.

According to Pew, Internet and American Life project, more older Americans are going online than ever.

According to another Pew report, Baby boomers not only go online, they make increasing use of social media to reach out, connect to friends, family, and business associates. The Web enables them to stay abreast of the rapid changes in technology to remain current.

Surprisingly, the largest jump in usage was in the age 70 and older group. Internet penetration among people 70-74 was 19 percentage points and 75+ was 10 points – not huge, but not bad.

By comparison, the percentage of users age 25 to 29 held steady during those years at 85 percent.While fewer older folks were online than their younger counterparts, people ages 55+ accounted for nearly one-third of the Web audience and typically spent more time online than younger adults.

Online Presence

A study by ExactTarget shows that boomers are not only online, but own a formidable presence.Over 72 percent access the Net over broadband from their home (more than the national average across all age groups). They just do different things – they might say more meaningful things – online.

They’re Everywhere – Boomers are completely different from their parents and grandparents. They’ve taken to the online world in record numbers. True, they do probably spend more time checking health/wellness information; but even there, much of it is also for their families.

They’re doing research, finding resources, gaining knowledge:

– 92 per cent spend their time online seeking information.

– 82 per cent research health info for themselves, their family.

– 95 per cent stay in touch with friends, family.

– 86 per cent research products they purchase offline

– 73 per cent shop online.

Pew and Construction Crew found that older web users are quickly embracing social networks.

Run Kid – Granted, not many boomers post wet t-shirt party or wasted evening photos; but they are still very active on social sites. Social media enables people of all generations to stay in touch and improve/expand their relationships, experience. Source: ContinuumUsage among boomers plus has nearly doubled with Facebook and LinkedIn being the main beneficiaries of the mature traffic and usage doubling during the past year.

With even seniors catching the wave of social networking, the mass appeal is undeniable for marketers. Facebook announced its 800 millionth user mid-last year.

Pew offered three reasons for social networking’s appeal to older adults:

– They want to reconnect with people from their past.

– As a gathering place for multiple generations, social networks are useful to parents for learning about the lives of their children and grandchildren.

The challenge for Facebook is that it tries to be everything to everyone, so it could easily suffer the same abandonment as MySpace. Referring to MySpace, Mattie Rose said, “I would not recognize the soles of his feet.”The use of mobile multimedia services (entertainment) is growing across all age groups and recent consumer surveys found that boomers aren’t being left behind.

On-the-Go Hello – While boomers may do less texting than younger mobile device users, they do use their feature/smartphones for a wide range of communications activities. Those who text frequently usually take to it because of their children and grandchildren.

In a recent Accenture survey they found:

– Baby boomers (people ages 45 and up) are swiftly adopting such Gen-Y habits as playing videogames on the go and listening to music on an MP3 player, through boomers are still far behind Gen Y in actual usage.

– Baby boomers are also adopting new non-mobile technologies at a faster pace than Gen Y, although they’re still way behind. The endeavors include blog reading, tapping into social-networking sites and watching Internet videos.

Late last year, the research firm found that feature/smartphones were primarily used as a way to communicate by voice, text, email.

Across all age groups 54 per cent didn’t want/need video and video streaming to their phone and 14 percent called the service too expensive.

Going Mobile

According to ExactTarget, however, both Accenture and ExactTarget found the use of mobile services were growing.Mobile Contact – When it comes to non-call communications for boomers, email leads the list of options followed by IMs and texting. RSS feed subscription isn’t a “gotta have” solution for almost everyone.

Despite the lack of interest in wireless multimedia services, Accenture found increased adoption rates:

– the percentage of people watching video on a mobile phone – across all age groups – rose from 12 per cent, to 14 per cent.

– the percentage of people using cellphones to access Web services rose from 8 to 23 per cent

– about a third indicated Web browsing was one of their top three mobile applications.

– almost 25 per cent indicated listening to music on their mobile phone was a top-three application.

The Grown Gamer

Not realizing that we grew up with Atari, our son was surprised to hear that we had adopted his habit of playing videogames on-the-go and would even listen to music on-the- go (despite the fact that fidelity was lost when we went from platters to CDs to MP3):

– Boomers playing video games on their cellphones grew to 13 per cent from 9 per cent — Yes, percentage for 18-24 year olds grew from one – 45 per cent; but

– Boomers who listen to music on mobile devices increased to 31 per cent from 21 per cent (Gen Yers from 68 to 76 per cent.

Still, in overall online endeavors, boomers were increasing their use of all technologies faster than Gen Yers.

Echnology for All – At home or on-the-go, nearly every generation is focused on staying current, staying involved. Acceptance, understanding, usage is across all generations and some analysts have reached the conclusion that technology has actually brought the generations closer together.

There are probably several reasons for this:

– Boomers say they feel younger than their chronological age.

– People tend to live longer (hence one of the reasons the global population topped 7 billion last year).

– Boomers are tending to stay in the workforce longer than their grandparents, parents.

– They want/need to communicate with their kids who are connected 24×7 .

Ganging Up – When you put boomers, boomers plus and millennials together you have a combination that can take on and dominate the generations in between. Youth/speed combined with experience/cunning is a tough combination to beat.

Sorta’ looks like the boomers are taking the lead from the millennials and backing into, embracing all of today’s technology…with enthusiasm.

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Jim Love, Chief Content Officer, IT World Canada

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