Understanding Generational Social Media Preferences

Generational Social Media Preferences

By Brooke B. Sellas, {grow} Contributing Columnist

I’m starting to wonder if marketers are too caught up with millennials to really think about generational nuances on social media. Because there’s more to marketing than millennials.

Like me, Generation X. Social works on us too, ya know!

According to the Q1 2017 Sprout Social Index

  • 7 in 10 Gen Xers will likely purchase something from a brand they follow
  • 64.7% of Gen Xers use Facebook regularly
  • Gen Xers are twice as likely to follow a brand on social as Baby Boomers are

The Sprout report is chockful of stats on Millennials, Generation X, and Baby Boomers.

I’ll unpack the most important stats here to underscore the generational nuances every social media marketer should know.

Millennials (ages 18-34)

Juiciest report stats:

  • 30% of Millennials engage with a brand on social at least once a month.
  • 58.9% of Millennials follow a brand before purchasing a product
  • Millennials are twice as likely as any other generation to turn to social, rather than phone or email, to communicate with a brand
  • 38% of Millennials follow brands for entertainment value

Biggest takeaway: Millennials,  especially the younger generations, are more willing to split their time equally across a wide range of social communities versus being loyal to just one platform.


What this means for you: If your target audience includes marketing to millennials this can be challenging since it’s nearly impossible to be everywhere. Sprout Social makes these smart suggestions:

  1. Identify a growth audience that makes sense for your brand
  2. Get clear on why you’re trying to reach this audience and what your goals are for targeting this age group
  3. Strategize and plan using one of the social networks your target group prefers
  4. Adjust your strategy based on results

In other words, if you test Snap and see seriously good results, plan to stay there. If not, time to test the next channel.

In regards to Snapchat (I still don’t think it’s for this adult) remember that 35% of Snap users like the platform because content disappears. Yet another marketing challenge.

 GenXers (ages 34-54)

Juiciest report stats:

  • For Gen X, Facebook is 54% more popular than YouTube
  • Gen X is more likely to follow a brand for contests, deals, and promotions
  • Gen Xers are nearly 160% more likely than the other generations to unfollow a brand that says something offensive or in opposition to their personal beliefs
  • On a monthly basis, 32% of Gen Xers engage with a brand they follow


Biggest takeaway: Nearly 7 in 10 Gen Xers will likely purchase something from a brand they follow.

What this means for you: Even though each generation may opt-in to a brand’s Facebook Page or Instagram profile before making a purchase, it doesn’t mean they’re seeking out the same social content. Knowing that Gen Xers are offended easily, it’s a good idea to edit humor and entertainment-type posts with an eagle eye.

Additionally, knowing that many Generation X users are following your brand for contests, deals, and promotions — give them that! There are several tools and tactics you can try:

  • ShortStack
  • Wyng
  • Or, simply use a whisper word (like “awesome sauce”) on your Facebook page and tell your audience that when they call or book, if they use that word they’ll get a deal

Offering something is the easy part. Following your audience through the purchase path may take some work.

Baby Boomers (ages 55+)

Juiciest report stats:

  • Baby Boomers are looking for a healthy mix of deals and promotions, and information
  • YouTube is their second favorite social platform
  • 51% of Baby Boomers will likely make a purchase from a brand they follow


The biggest takeaway: Baby Boomers are mainly lurkers — only 14% regularly interact with brands.

What this means for you: This means that our (and your) “Think Conversation, Not Campaign” style of thinking isn’t going to get us very far with clients who cater to Boomers. And we’ve noticed.

On pages we manage where the audience is 55+, we get very little engagement and dialogue, but a closer look at darker metrics, like clicks, shows that our audience is looking at what we post. The two biggest wins we’ve seen with Boomers are:

  1. Appealing to their need for information with a “Did You Know” series that fosters informational growth with pithy stats or not-well-known facts
  2. Using contests and promotions to activate lurkers

Other Generational Nuances

It’s important to consider your current demographical makeup as well as your desired demographical makeup when creating content for your social media pages.

As Sprout concludes in the report,

“For your social marketing efforts to be successful, audience demographic data is essential. In order to give your audience what they want you need to understand who they are and what they’re looking for first. On Facebook, your brand’s audience makeup might look drastically different than it does on Pinterest. Your social content strategy, publishing patterns and brand messaging should reflect that difference. Your marketing strategy needs to be be cohesive–not definitive.”

Read the full report here.

What are some of the ways your marketing team prepares for generational nuances and challenges? Let me know in the comments section below!

Brooke Ballard for {grow}Brooke B. Sellas is an in-the-trenches digital marketer & owner at B Squared Media, blossoming blogger, and a purveyor of psychographics. Her mantra is “Think Conversation, Not Campaign” so be sure to give her a shout on Twitter.

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