post tag icon Marketing
14 / 09 / 23

Generational marketing for social media – what is it and how to use it to your advantage

A crucial aspect of any marketing campaign is having a clear understanding of your target audience – exactly who are you marketing your product or service to and how will that affect your messaging?  There are several ways of honing in on your chosen demographic or ‘buyer persona’, including location, income, and gender. But if you want to create a campaign that refines this process further, generational marketing could be the answer.  In this article, we will cover the importance of understanding your target audience in marketing and how generational marketing can play a crucial role in refining your messaging. Generational marketing involves tailoring your marketing campaign to specific age groups, taking into account their values, motivations, and buying characteristics.

What is generational marketing? 

In the same way certain products are marketed to those identifying as a specific gender, such female, or those performing a specific role, such as father, generational marketing aims to target buyers within a specified age bracket.  

It’s a way of tailoring your social media campaign using the values, motivations, and buying characteristics of a particular age group to curate your messaging so it appeals directly to that generation.  

Each person’s view of the world is shaped by the events and influences they grew up with. It’s no surprise, then, that different generations have varying values, opinions, priorities, and approaches to many things, including their buying habits.  

Although it’s never a good thing to make sweeping generalisations about large groups of people – and there are always exceptions to any rules – there are certain truths shared by members of the same generation that can be tapped into for marketing purposes. 

For example, which generation will respond best to funny video ads on TikTok? Which age groups value a business’ sustainability over the speed of their service, and which show the most brand loyalty? Will a rewards system appeal to your target generation or is championing traditional values the way to win their business?  

These kinds of considerations will help define your messaging and ensure it’s delivered in a way that resonates clearly with the generation (s) you’re marketing to. 

My generation? 

When it comes to social media marketing, there are four main generations to consider as these are the age groups most likely to be active on SM:  

  • Baby Boomers – People born between 1946 – 1964 
  • Generation X – People born between 1965 – 1980 
  • Generation Y or Millennials – People born between 1981 – 1996 
  • Generation Z – People born after 1996 

When these people were born and how they grew up not only affects their buying habits but also their relationship with technology. It’s important to consider both these factors when using social media to deliver your campaign message.   

It’s also important to note that, according to this recent survey, most UK adults don’t know which generation they belong to. But for the purposes of generational marketing, that doesn’t matter. The success of your campaign doesn’t rely on your target market identifying themselves as belonging to a specific generation, more that they share similar values, opinions, and characteristics to those within their peer group. 

Let's take a look at the four main generations to focus on for social media marketing (SMM) and how you can tailor your content to target these groups.     

Babyboomers 1946 – 1964 

This post-war generation accounts for around one third of the UK population – a significant chunk of the market – with one in five classed as millionaires making them an appealing prospect for targeted marketing.  

They grew up in a time of prosperity while the country was enjoying a flush of economic growth. This inspired a ‘bigger is better’ attitude in the Boomer generation, and the desire to strive, improve, and accumulate is strong in this one.  

Because of this, Boomers are a generation of insatiable consumers including products, services, and experiences. They also have the most disposable income of any of the four generations, thanks to their largely empty nests, making them a highly desirable target market.  

Generational social media marketing for Baby Boomers 

They didn’t grow up with technology, but Boomers are making up for lost time with 74% of this sector active on social media. Although the majority are comfortable using a range of digital devices, accessibility will enhance the appeal of your SMM for this generation. Consider the size of the text and the use of clear images and buttons in your posts to curry favour with these users.  

Facebook ranks as the Boomer’s favoured platform, closely followed by YouTube, where they do their product research. This throws the playing field wide open when it comes to mixed-media content like video and animation, so consider informative how-to's, demos, and reviews. 

The majority of Boomers use Facebook to keep up with friends and family. They also follow peer influencers, whose opinions they trust and are likely to identify with, so use this to your advantage when representing your target market online.    

Special offers, discounts, and promotions are also popular with Boomers. Incorporating these kinds of marketing strategies into your social media will entice this audience further, especially if these offers are loyalty or reward based.    

Despite their wealth and numbers, Boomers are a largely untapped generation when it comes to social media marketing, with most businesses choosing to focus their SM strategy on the younger generations. With Boomers 58% more likely to click through to your website from a social post, social media is an area you definitely don’t want to write off when marketing to this lucrative generation.  

Generation X 1965 – 1980 

Money-conscious and research-driven, Generation X didn’t grow up with social media, but they are one of the most active generations online. The average Gen X-er spends around 2 hours a day on social media, with Facebook and Instagram at the top of their digital haunts.  

Gen X-ers like to shop around online and use social media to inform their research about brands and products. They don’t part with their money easily and are sceptical shoppers, which makes them a tough audience to capture. They’re also the generation that’s most resistant to change; anything that pushes Gen X out of their comfort zone is likely to put them off purchasing.  

To win Gen X’s confidence, consistency is key. They like to stick to what they know and, once convinced of a brand’s virtues, their habitual nature means they're primed for repeat business.    

Generational social media marketing for Generation X 

While social media marketing alone is unlikely to drive a Gen X shopper to make a purchasing decision, a lack of social presence is a definite turn-off for this generation, so be sure to get yourself noticed with regular posting and plenty of stand-out, fact-based content.  

Being cautious with their cash (growing up in a recession will do that for you), Generation X expects the very best of everything when they do choose to part with their dough, so think ‘high end’ when it comes to all your social media profiles and posts. Instagram is an easy win here if you can combine practical copy with picture-perfect shots.    

As well as top-quality products, Gen X-ers place value on customer service and read A LOT of online reviews. This generation is vocal about its dissatisfaction and expects brands to respond accordingly to complaints, so be vigilant with your comments and prompt in your responses when engaging with Gen X-ers online. A well-timed like, reply, or acknowledgment of an issue that’s been raised will go a long way.  

This generation doesn't like to be spoon fed. Although a brand’s social presence is important for leads and comparison research, too much in-your-face advertising will cause them to run a mile. Curate your Gen X social content so it informs and educates rather than hammers home your message.    

Like Boomers, Gen X responds well to loyalty and reward-based schemes, but you must earn their trust first by meeting – or exceeding – their exacting standards. Set the bar high with useful SM content and maintain it with an attentive approach to managing your profiles. 

Millennials – 1981 – 1996 

Of all the generations, Millennials are the most talked about when it comes to social media marketing.  

This is largely due to Millennials being the biggest generation in history – approximately 1.8 billion (23%) of the world’s population is considered a Millennial. These early-40 to late-20-somethings were also the first generation to grow up with the internet and social media. (Facebook landed in 2004, in case you’re trying to do the maths.) 

Millennials won’t remember a time in their adult lives when you couldn't research or buy a product online. Because of this, they are more likely to be influenced by digital ads and follow through with online purchases.  

Authenticity, strong values, and social and environmental awareness are core motivators for harnessing Millennial buying power – a generation that favours spending over saving and value for money over convenience.  

The idea of supporting certain brands whose values align with their own by giving them business, following them on social media, and sharing their content online, is key to tapping into the Millennial marketing goldmine. 

Generational social media marketing for Millennials  

Growing up with social media (or discovering it, as I did, in your mid-20s when its novelty far outweighed any fears of oversharing) Millennials have a formative relationship with platforms like Facebook and Instagram.  

They use social media to connect with friends and family, but also with the things they identify with, be it brands, influencers, or lifestyle products.  

Liking or following a business on social is a way of Millennials nailing their colours to the mast and sharing their stance with others. Making your company's policies on things like gender and sexual equality, environmental issues, and charitable causes the subject of your posts is a good way to get this generation onboard with your SM marketing, giving them a clearer picture of who your brand represents and why they should support your business.  

This generation cares about their buying choices and the impact they have. Showing Millennial users how their money is put to good use through your SM channels will make them feel part of something positive and bigger.   

Millennials also value transparency on social media. User-generated content is more likely to capture their attention as it’s not only authentic, but also gives them a community to join. Recently, more and more clothing and beauty brands are following in the footsteps of Dove, sharing unedited images and videos of real people using their products on social media instead of models to great effect.  

Think bold and honest with a higher purpose and you’ll be speaking directly to the Millennial market. 

Generation Z – 1997 - 2012 

The youngest and most tech-savvy generation of the four, Gen Z or ‘Zoomers’ have never known a world without digital access to anything and everything, 24/7.  

True digital natives, they're the most reliant on social media (94% of Gen Z-ers use SM) but are less likely to follow brands than Millennials. Instead, they prefer to connect with and follow influencers for product and buying advice. In fact, almost half (44%) of the Gen Z audience say they’ve made a purchase based on influencer endorsement.   

Video is king for this generation, with platform like YouTube and TikTok ranking highest for use and engagement among Gen Z-ers. They’re influenced by trends and viral content and will happily buy from social platforms, especially those with a strong cache of user reviews or that come recommended by friends.   

This generation is money conscious – even more so than Gen X – having grown up during the Great Recession and witnessed the financial instability caused by the Covid 19 pandemic. Despite their conservative nature when it comes to spending, Gen Z has significant buying power and should not be underestimated due to their relatively young age.   

Generational social media marketing for Generation Z 

Gen Z wants to support brands that align with their values. Even more so than Millennials, this generation responds to marketing that takes a stand on issue they care about, so use your social channels to shout about your business’ beliefs.  

Environmental and social concerns rank highly for Gen Z. Generational marketing campaigns that support conservation and recycling will capture their attention, as well as those that tackle social issues like discrimination, bullying, and poverty. This generation likes to dig deep, though, so ensure anything and everything you share about your business on social media is 100% true and accurate.    

They also respond well to campaigns that welcome engagement and participation. Social media is about two-way communication for Gen Z. They expect interaction from the channels they follow so an attentive approach to fresh content and genuine replies to comments are essential. 

If you don’t have a social media manager, consider getting yourself one. Gen Z has a micro attention span; a late response or dated content is equivalent to none at all. 

This digital generation uses online platforms in place of traditional media for almost all their entertainment and information. Video is their go-to source, with fun tools like AI and gamification being a real draw.   

Focus on creating entertaining campaigns and sharable content for platforms like YouTube, TikTok, and Snapchat. Catchy, quirky content works best here. Keep it short and aim to make it as recreational as possible – Gen Z is averse to out-and-out advertising. And, if you happen to create something irksome and viral – lucky you! You’re well on your way to capturing the Gen Z social media market.  

Key Takeaways:

  • To create an effective marketing campaign, it's crucial to understand your target audience and how it affects your messaging.
  • Generational marketing targets specific age groups, tailoring messages to their values, motivations, and buying habits.
  • Every generation may have varying values, opinions and priorities which influence their buying habits.
  • Focus on 4 key generations for social media marketing: Baby Boomers, Generation X, Millennials and Generation Z.
  • Baby Boomers (1946-1964) are insatiable consumers with high disposable income, they value family and trust peer influencers. Use clear images and buttons in posts.
  • Generation X (1965-1980) are more money-conscious and research-driven, they expect consistency and value quality. Use fact-based content and prompt responses to reviews.
  • Millennials (1981-1996) are the largest generation, prioritising authenticity and social awareness. Showcase values and transparency, and encourage user-generated content.
  • Generation Z (1997-2012) is a tech-savvy generation, influenced by trends and viral content, they also value social and environmental concerns. Be truthful, engage, and focus on video and entertaining content.
  • Tailor your social media content preferences and values of each generation to maximise the effectiveness of your marketing campaign.

Too busy to be social? We get it. That's why we offer social media marketing for businesses. We create engaging content that's tailored to your audience, post it, and monitor its progress for you, so you can focus on running your business in the real world. Want to know more? Get in touch!   

Written by Emily Formation