To tweet or not to tweet: Can social media help in the senior market?
By Jeffery Hoyle
Emphasis Marketing & Communications
My mom, who is turning 72 in a month, is an Internet phenom; which is no small feat considering a few short years ago, she was a fearful Internet user, to say the least. “Going on the Net just concerns me! Never sure where to go, not sure how to find what I need … eh, it’s just not for me!”
Boy, did she change her tune.
Now, not only can she surf the Web like a pro, she is adept at Craigslist postings, bill paying, even downloading music and books! It's impressive; so much so that recently, when I was creating a posting to sell a piece of furniture on Craigslist, my mom was my co-pilot in the process. Suffice to say, with her expertise in the verbiage and style of a successful advertisement, the furniture sold in a matter of hours.
Why does this story matter? Because even though 88 percent of Americans are Internet users, the forgotten demographic of most marketing efforts are senior citizens. Sure, for many, the thought of surfing the Web is still daunting. But most are joining the revolution, which has spurred a huge leap in the age of Internet users over recent years.
So, what are seniors looking for on the Net? Travel sites are huge, health care related issues, and as we’ve discussed in this column before, financial concerns. But this isn’t another of those articles telling you how to wrangle new clients from the Net to build your business. Well, not exacttly.
Since the social media revolution, experts, academics and business owners have posed many questions. One of the biggest: How can my business benefit from the juggernaut that is social media? The good news is that there are an endless number of outlets on the Internet that you can hitch your wagon to, and that number grows larger every single day. Compliance might be your biggest issue, but a simple conference with your compliance folks can clarify any issues you may have.
A number of seniors are taking their Internet usage to the next level with social media. A study conducted by the Pew Research Center says that 8 percent of Americans are users of the social media giant Twitter. And of that 8 percent, about 10 percent are senior men and women. Why the popularity among seniors? The maximum length of a Twitter message is 140 characters; short and sweet. It’s a great way to stay connected, but doesn’t take a lot of time and energy away from the lifestyle of the busy retiree. It also provides another outlet for communication; not just with friends and family, but with organizations and individuals that have a voice in the lives of senior citizens. For inactive seniors, it provides an outlet to the outside world; something senior groups encourage that can help to prevent loneliness.
To bring this all into perspective, the Pew study found that between April 2009 and May 2010, social networking site usage grew 88 percent among Internet users aged 55–64, and the 65 and older group’s social networking presence grew 100 percent in the same time frame. And while the young adults still seem to run the show on sites like Facebook and YouTube, the senior citizen demographic is catching up. So now the question is, how can your business benefit?
Twitter and Facebook are built around the concept of social interaction. If you have an account on either or both of these sites, you understand that the meat of it is the sharing and interaction with others. On my own Facebook page, for example, I have over 900 contacts; and I know each and every one of them. Scary? It shouldn’t be, because we live in a social society. Our desire to know about each other keeps us “tweeting” what we have for lunch, and posting pics of our friends and families. The impact of YouTube can be summed up in one name: Justin Bieber.
The simplest way to join the revolution is to open a Twitter and a Facebook account. If you already have one for personal use, consider opening up a separate account for your business. Facebook gives you the option of opening a business page, plus they offer amazing rates on banner/boarder advertising on the Facebook site; which can be done geographically. Again, depending on the kind of license(s) you hold, you may want to contact your compliance officer to determine if these are acceptable outlets for advertising.
It’s safe to say that the Internet, social media and most everything related to the World Wide Web is here to stay. If you are already on board the train, enjoy the ride. If you haven’t got on board yet, now is the time to buy that ticket for the sake of the future of your business.