Have you thought about how Gen Z marketing differs from Baby Boomer marketing and Millennial marketing? With tailored approaches resonating with different generations, getting your Influencer Marketing messages right is more important than ever. Pinpointing the social media marketing tactics that your target generation(s) relate to could mean something as simple as matching influencers’ ages with the ages of your target audience. Or, it could mean generational marketing based on your target generation’s preferences, needs, trends, upbringings, motivations, and attitudes. So, how can you create campaigns that speak to your target demographic while exceeding expectations?
What Are the Generations?
At any one time, four generations are walking around the U.S., which are defined by a span of about 15 years. You’ve likely heard the current names: Gen Z, Millennials, Gen X, and Baby Boomers. If so, were you as confused as we were when we first tried to determine each generation’s age ranges? Various sources define them differently. Moreover, the number of people in those generations fluctuates depending on the source and the time of day.
How Many People Are in Each Generation?
The table below shows each generation’s birth year ranges and the actual number of people in each, as of the Census Bureau’s last census.
- Millennials are currently the largest generation with more than 81 million in the United States.
- Gen Z and Baby Boomers are almost tied for second place, with about 72 million people each.
- Gen Xers come in last, with about 62 million.
What Are the Generations’ Online Behaviors?
Generational marketing, similar to any other form of marketing, requires knowing your target audience. This section overviews each generation’s online behaviors and preferences.
Gen Z’s Online Patterns
The youngest members of Gen Z are in elementary school and the oldest are either in college or starting their careers. They spend as much as 10 hours a day online, not necessarily on social media. They’re digital natives who account for 5 to 32 percent of the total spending in the U.S., depending on who you ask. According to Insider Intelligence, they prefer people over marketers, with 11 percent of them relying on influencers for product recommendations. You’ll most likely find them on Snapchat and TikTok for connection and entertainment. Additionally, they rely heavily on YouTube to research products, followed by Instagram, Facebook, and Pinterest.
How and Where Millennials Spend Their Online Time
Also known as Gen Y, Millennials—ages 28 to 42 in 2022— are starting or are well into their careers, buying homes and baby clothing, and paying off student loans. According to recent findings, 58 percent of Millennials surveyed agreed with the statement that “my social media networks are important information sources for shopping decisions.” Their preferred social media platforms? First, Facebook, followed by Whatsapp and Instagram.
Although values such as equality matter to Gen Zers and Millennials, the latter group should grab most of your brand’s attention. Most importantly, they have bigger wallets and more spending power. According to Forbes magazine, “nearly seven in 10 U.S. Millennials actively consider company values when making a purchase, compared with 52 percent of all U.S. online adults. Older Millennials [ages 30 to 38] are particularly conscious of company values across product categories.” This group isn’t just youthfully idealistic; they’re ready and able to put their money where their mouths are. If you have a buy-our-product-and-we’ll-donate-money-to-a-charity campaign idea, target this generation.
Gen X’s Online Preferences
You could say that Gen X is generally more temperate since they were adults during the Great Recession of 2008. They might also be providing financial support to both their adult Millennial kids and their Boomer parents. Ironically, though they tend to have longer attention spans than the previous generations, they love short-form video content for its brevity in their busy lives. Additionally, they’re value-driven and have more spending power. And, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and YouTube are their go-to platforms. Finally, and as far as other internet sources, which they’re more likely to use than other generations, they also like blogs and websites, review sites, and videos. Last but not least, they are more open to email marketing and direct mail than the other generations.
Their wide variety of preferences means more possibilities for your brand for activations and information. When implementing Gen X marketing, think of ways you can educate this target market about your company, people, or products. Furthermore, give them reasons to become long-term fans.
How Baby Boomers Use the Internet
The oldest online generation, Baby Boomers, have access to 70 percent of U.S. disposable income. Additionally, they have shown the greatest increase in time spent on social media since 2014. This is because they tend to have the longest attention span of all generations. Furthermore, a whopping 82 percent of Boomers who use the internet have at least one social media account, if not four or more. Their most trusted sources for product recommendations come from YouTube influencers who provide product reviews. They also look to Facebook for connections and LinkedIn for networking. Therefore, you cannot afford to ignore this generation, although its members usually need a little more convincing. Finding the right influencer who speaks their language (which means not calling them “old” or “Boomer”), uses the right activations, and shares on the right platforms gives you a good chance of hooking a loyal buyer.
What Are Social Media Marketing Best Practices for Each Generation?
The best way to do social media marketing to the various generations is to acknowledge the unique characteristics of each one. For example, since Gen Zers spend the most amount of time online of any generation, it seems like it’d be a no-brainer to focus your Influencer Marketing efforts on them, right? However, since some of them are still in elementary school, they currently only claim as little as five percent of the overall spending “pie.” So, what social media marketing you aim towards them should be done strategically, on the platforms they prefer, and with appropriate conversion expectations.
Conversely, social media marketing to older generations means not discounting the impact influencers have on them. Even Baby Boomers have their favorite influencers. They’re just different from those the newbies follow.
When identifying the characteristics of each generation, the primary areas to focus on include:
- Which influencers each generation prefers
- Communication styles
- Preferred type of social media content
- Top activations and incentives
- Best times to reach them and where
Preferred Influencer Types by Generation
A 2020 report released by Engine Group, an insights and strategy group at PR Newswire, said that authenticity was important to both Gen Zers and Millennials. No surprises there. But, what separates one generation from the next in regards to their influencer preferences?
Gen Z’s Preferred Influencer Types
Beyond authenticity, Gen Z’s next most important criteria for their preferred influencers to follow were, in order of priority:
- A nice person
- Isn’t just trying to sell them something
- Makes their day better or improves their mood
- Tries to make the world a better place
- The type of person they’d want to hang out with
Millennials’ Favorite Types of Creators
Gen Y tends to follow nano-influencers, looking for connection more than celebrity status. Remember that nano-influencers are anyone who has:
- 1K to 10K followers on Instagram
- 1K to 10K views on YouTube
- 10K to 50K unique visitors per month (UVMs) on their blogs
Gen X’s Must-Follow Influencers
Gen Xers tend to follow business gurus, how-to channels, and self-help experts. This makes sense considering they’re into their careers, probably trying to juggle their personal and professional lives.
Who Baby Boomers Prefer to Follow Online
Although they’re less influenced by them than by their own years of experience, Baby Boomers seek tips from influencers. For example, business gurus, healthy lifestyle experts, mature fashion and beauty influencers, and DIYers like Martha Stewart.
Preferred Types of Content for Social Media Marketing by Generation
Following close behind their preferred uses of social media and types of influencers are the types of content each generation prefers.
Best Types of Content for Gen Zers
In addition to content that entertains them and helps them keep up with friends, among other things, Gen Zers like content that helps them discover new products and brands. Generally, they lean towards getting that content in
- Games/video games
- Live streams
If a Gen Zer’s favorite influencer is, say, a celebrity-level gamer, then it makes sense that they’d prefer more visual content like videos, video games, entertaining memes, and live streams. Of course, they’re not the only ones who like those kinds of content; plenty of Millennials and even Gen Xers follow certain gamers religiously. This means if you want to get your brand’s product in front of Gen Zers, in addition to sharing it on Snapchat, TikTok, or YouTube, you should think about creative ways to partner with gamer influencers, like:
- Sponsoring gamers’ live streams, as Michelin did with gamer Sonja Reid (aka omgitsfirefoxx)
- Creating branded content for influencers to promote on their channels, like Alastair Aiken, aka Ali-a, did with Amazon Echo and others
- Working with the influencer to develop products that can be sold on brands’ websites, like Roi Fabito (aka Guava Juice) did with Target
Best Types of Content for Millennials
Millennials tend to respond to a wide variety of content, including traditional online ads, social media marketing, and branded podcasts. Your Influencer Marketing campaigns will be more effective if you go with influencers who produce more content that matches what those generations generally prefer.
Best Types of Content for Gen Xers
Gen Xers tend to respond better than other generations to:
- In-depth videos
- Email marketing
- Blog posts
- Review sites
- Direct mail
Best Types of Content for Baby Boomers
Similarly, the majority of Baby Boomers show a preference for in-depth videos or long blog posts that show a product’s value. Also, this generation tends to be more concerned about their online privacy, so they don’t respond as well to paid search strategies that have “tracking.” A better type of product content for them would be Google search ads. Whatever you do, provide as many details as you can about your product, as this audience segment doesn’t shy away from “fine print.”
Best Activations and Incentives
There are a lot of ways to activate influencers’ readers and followers and incentivize them to take the next step in the buyer’s journey.
Gen Z’s Preferred Tactics
For example, a Gen Zer who recently graduated college and has student loans to pay would probably prefer activations that feature contests, giveaways, and discount codes. Since they also like Instagram and Pinterest, you could consider doing Instagram blitzes and Pinterest campaigns with influencers specific to that platform. Considered by some to be the “selfie generation,” they show a preference for “tell us your story” campaigns or ones that ask for user-generated content.
Best Activations for Millennials
A Millennial who’s passionate about conservation and looks for engaging brands and influencers would probably be all over an Instagram blitz campaign like the one National Geographic did with Microsoft. Because of their desire for connection, they’re the most likely—along with Gen Xers—to enjoy conferences or live, in-person events like influencer-hosted in-home or at-venue events.
Gen X’s Favorite Campaign Types
A Gen Xer who has worked hard to get where they’re at would be the most likely to click on an exclusive deal or rewards program based on their past spending habits. They, too, like live events, whether in-person or virtual. They’re also more likely to participate in Twitter parties.
Top Activations for Baby Boomers
A Baby Boomer who is used to trying on clothes in a store would likely prefer in-store, in-person, exclusive VIP events.
Best Times of Day to Reach Each Generation
Frequently, brands ask what the best times are to reach their audiences on different platforms. Generally, these are the best times to post to each platform. However, the best rule of thumb is to ask partnering influencers who’ve experimented, studied their analytics, and know what times work best to engage with their followers. Some caveats to keep in mind:
- Just because Snapchat is Gen Z’s favorite platform doesn’t mean you won’t find a Gen Xer or two on there, checking out their kids’ profiles and activities.
- This list is by no means exhaustive. Pinterest has its best times, too.
- All of this could change tomorrow because of the platform’s algorithms.
Gen Z: Preferred Social Media Platforms and Publishing Dates and Times
When crafting social media marketing campaigns for Gen Z, consider their preferred channels and posting dates and times:
- Snapchat: Post between 10:00 p.m. and 1:00 a.m., since their favorite time to scroll is at night.
- Monday: 6:00 a.m., 10:00 a.m., or 10:00 p.m.
- Tuesday: 2:00 a.m, 4:00 a.m., or 9:00 a.m.
- Wednesday: 7:00 a.m, 8:00 a.m., or 11:00 p.m.
- Thursday: 9:00 a.m., 12:00 a.m., or 7:00 p.m.
- Friday: 5:00 a.m., 1:00 p.m., or 3:00 p.m.
- Saturday: 11:00 a.m., 7:00 p.m., or 8:00 p.m.
- Sunday: 7:00 a.m., 8:00 a.m., or 4:00 p.m.
Millennials: Best Dates and Times to Post for Them
When crafting social media marketing campaigns for Millennials, consider their preferred platforms and times of day, including the following:
- Facebook: As much as we want a conclusive answer to the question of when to post to Facebook, there is no best time, according to Buffer. The key is to test and learn what works for this target demographic.
- Instagram: The best times to post are Tuesdays between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays: 11:00 a.m. If you’re looking for the best posting times by industry, HubSpot provides a great resource for that.
The Best Dates and Times to Post Per Platform for Gen Xers
Gen Xers have their preferred platforms and publishing times too, so keep these windows in mind when crafting social media marketing campaigns for them:
- Facebook: You guessed it: any time. Test, watch, and learn.
- Instagram: The top dates and times to post are Tuesdays between 11:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. Additionally, you can publish on Mondays, Wednesdays, Thursdays, and Fridays at 11:00 a.m.
- Tuesday: Post between 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m.
- Wednesday: Publish at 9:00 a.m. or 3:00 p.m.
- Thursday: Share between 9:00 a.m. and 11:00 a.m. [source]
Baby Boomers: Preferred Social Media Platforms and Publishing Dates and Times
Baby Boomers have their optimal times and platforms as well, including:
- YouTube: There is no best time to post, according to Influencer Marketing Hub, so experiment, talk to partnering influencers, and see what they suggest.
- Facebook: Again, test, watch, tweak, and learn what works best for this target audience.
- LinkedIn: The best time to post on this platform is at 9:00 a.m. on Tuesdays and Wednesdays.
Wrapping It Up
Good social media marketing is, by nature and necessity, strategic. Awesome Influencer Marketing campaigns that help you reach your brand awareness goals are even more so. Taking into account each generation’s preferences helps you pinpoint each buyer’s persona, create tactics that drive conversion, and deliver results that exceed expectations. Specifically, knowing each generation’s preferred platforms, favorite influencers, activations that resonate with them, and times of day they’re on social can make all the difference in your success.