Marketing to Mature Consumers Requires Holistic Approach—Including Social Media

As growing numbers of older adults become accustomed to using the Internet, including email, search engines, and social media, marketers are looking for the latest ways to reach their target audiences. But while it’s smart (and increasingly necessary) to explore new avenues, market researchers say it’s ill-advised to abandon the tried-and-true methods.

Social media—and Facebook in particular—may be a new frontier for senior living providers when marketing to older consumers, but they’re still not in a position to replace what’s perhaps the most powerful medium to mature consumers: TV.

In fact, a TVB Media Comparisons Study for 2012 released by Knowledge Networks Inc. says that television influences more purchase decisions than any other medium for seniors, at 32.7% compared to just 2.9% for Internet. And as far as social media goes, only 4% of the 18+ population reported making a purchase decision based on information from a social network.

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In short, says Beth Rand, director of client services for strategic marketing firm Creating Results, TV is still king—but that’s not to say new approaches shouldn’t be used.

“The best way to reach any mature consumer is an integrated marketing approach,” says Rand. “There is absolutely opportunity with leveraging social media in general—everything from Facebook, to dating sites, or even email. Make sure you’re integrated with [multiple] other avenues so you can hit the largest swath of consumers.”

That integration is especially important as 51% of adults said in the TVB study that a TV ad had prompted them to go online to find out more.

There are other “marked” benefits for companies that have strong online presences, including on social media, that have a significant consumer-base with multiple “fans,” “followers,” or “likes.”

Anything that allows consumers discounts, coupons, or special offers and provide an economic component of value is generally viewed by older consumers as having more value, which can in turn create loyal brand enthusiasts. Other reasons why it’s increasingly important to have an online platform is the convenience.

“It’s a convenient channel where consumers can see comments from contemporaries that could help guide purchase decisions,” Rand says. “Also, having that exclusive information is a really strong way to build connections with mature consumers.”

Boomers seek out and desire connections, she says, and it goes beyond monetary value. When it comes to TV, it’s a medium that has reached people for a long time. In other words, it’s a well-established connection, especially as boomers watch more TV than any other age group.

In fact, television reaches more people each day than any other medium, at 88.3% compared to the next highest, the Internet, at 73.1% according to the Media Comparisons study.

“Boomers and seniors, particularly those aged 65+, are prime-time TV watchers,” Rand says, “It’s an avenue they have the most exposure to, because there’s that continual reinforcement through that avenue [more so than] a social media platform.”

The TVB study shows that TV reaches a whopping 93.7% of the 65+ age group, compared to the fifth-ranked Internet, at 64.3%.

However, the older generation is increasingly adopting and even embracing technology “in leaps and bounds,” Rand says. The same study showed a 15% gain between 2010 and 2012 in the average daily time spent on the Internet to 3 hours, while TV-watching time fell very slightly to 5.2 hours.

“As we all age more, the number of people around for the PC revolution and has consistently used the computer increases,” says Kian Saneii, the CEO of senior care technology developer Independa. “It used to be somebody over 60 knows nothing about computers. Now, it’s either 74 or 75. The year, demographically, that you were exposed [to computer technology]– in another 10 years, that’s gonna be 85.”

In 10 years, a lot more people will be constantly using the computer, on a regular basis, he says. Even if they have dementia and forget other things, it’s going to be an ingrained part of their life, especially as technology continues to evolve.

Ultimately, while traditional marketing methods shouldn’t be abandoned, it is worth exploring new paths.

“Social media as a whole is absolutely an avenue that mature consumers will gravitate toward,” Rand reiterates. “But marketers should also include other avenues for a holistic approach.”

Written by Alyssa Gerace