Ask a Content Strategist

Ask a Content Strategist: How Do You Market to Baby Boomers?

How do you suggest marketing to an older crowd (55+)?

-Alice, Capetown

Despite being an unmarried 30-year-old whose East Village apartment features a green screen and a life-size cutout of Drake where the dining room should be, I spend a lot of time analyzing this question. Over the past year, I’ve had a number of content strategy projects that focus exclusively on the baby boomer market.

Treating all baby boomers the same is like treating all millennials the same. Grouping together such a diverse demographic will typically leave you with broad generalizations. (That may be just what you need for introductory research.)

At Contently, a big part of our content strategy methodology is analyzing audience groups to determine which topics, formats, and channels will resonate with them the most. We use our own proprietary data as well as a suite of third-party search and social tools to do this. I’d recommend that you do the same (and get your own life-size cutout of Drake).

However, if you’re looking for a good foundation, here are some common trends we’ve seen over the past year.

1. Boomers love Facebook.

According to engagement data, the narrative that millennials are abandoning Facebook has been overblown. But the narrative that baby boomers love Facebook is right on.

In analysis after analysis, Facebook has been the demographic’s network of choice, dominating over 90 percent of engagement with content in some cases. Over 15 percent of boomers spend 11 hours or more on Facebook every week. Per a 2016 Colorado University study, Facebook is more than twice as popular as LinkedIn, Pinterest, and Twitter. It’s nine times as popular as Instagram.

How can this data help you? It makes the case for Facebook’s ad offering, which is a great way to get content and other marketing assets in front of boomers. Yes, Facebook has been in more trouble lately than Kanye at a Swing Left rally, but the ad platform is still such a cost-effective channel for all marketers.

2. Prompts to share content work well.

According to a Pew Research study, boomers are 19 percent more likely to share content on Facebook than any other generation. Plus, they haven’t yet been beaten down by brands yelling at them to share with your network or tell us your brand storythe way millennials have.

brand story cartoon

3. They still love text articles.

Baby boomers are significantly more likely to engage with text articles than other generations. As a writer, this warms my heart and makes me think that I really should spend more time hanging out at my mom’s 55-and-over community.

4. Print still matters.

Direct mail works—as we’ve experienced with our business firsthand. Print magazines and brochures are still a popular content format for boomers. They didn’t grow up ruining their eyesight while constantly staring at computer screens a foot away from their faces. As a marketing tool, print is far from dead. And it often gives you room to be more creative and thoughtful when telling a story.

5. Boomers care about a lot of the same topics we stereotype as millennial interests.

The youngest baby boomers graduated high school in the ’80s. They may not have grown up with the internet, but it still became an essential part of their work lives and professional development. Tech-ignorant stereotypes are often laughably off base, but so are many others. Wellness, travel, experiences. Many of the topic buzzwords we associate with stock photos of happy millennials in knockoff Ray-Bans are huge areas of interest for boomers.

This generation is way healthier than any other that came before it, especially within the affluent market most brands are after. They’re retiring or empty-nesting with a ton of disposable income, and they want to spend their time exploring, not just playing shuffleboard in Boca. (Although it’s still a challenging game if you’ve ever tried to master it.)

So start by challenging all of your assumptions. Use the data available to you to analyze what interests your target boomers most and where they spend their time. Of course, talk to your audience in one-on-one interviews! That’s often how you uncover your most valuable insights.

How do I share infographics on social?

-Ravi, San Francisco

Most infographic artists build in chapters or modules. There’s an intro, “chapter 1,” “chapter 2,” “chapter 3,” and an outro. These individual chapters, which usually show a specific piece of data with accompanying text, are perfect to capture as a jpeg. Doing so will make it easy for your audience to share on Twitter, Facebook, and LinkedIn. Then link to the complete infographic embedded in a blog post on your site so people can check out the full thing.

What type of content is Facebook and Instagram promoting right now for pages?

-Shari, Anaheim

Let’s start with what Orwellian cosplay artist Mark Zuckerberg has told us so far. In January, Facebook announced it is explicitly downgrading pages (from publishers, brands, individuals, etc.) in the News Feed. They’ve secretly been doing this for a while. The share of referral traffic from Facebook to publisher sites dropped 50 percent between January 2017 and January 2018.

Facebook referral traffic

Facebook still shows love to posts from pages, but only if individual users share them. The platform also gives a bigger boost to content if someone comments on the post. So strong CTAs to comment and share are your best bet for driving engagement.

When looking at major pages, conservative publishers seem to be faring better, perhaps in response to the barrage of accusations of bias against conservatives thrown at Zuckerberg during his Congressional hearing in early April.

One interesting piece of advice for page owners: Consider starting a group. And then invite the best baby boomers in your life! After all, they’re spending a heck of a lot of time on Facebook.

Joe Lazauskas is Contently’s head of content strategy and co-author of The Storytelling Edge. Ask him your most pressing content strategy questions here, or email him at lazer@contently.com.

Image by iStockPhoto
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