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Bitter: Baby Boomers Emerging as the New Social Media Mavens

The emergence of the new 'Social Media Maven' among Baby Boomers, coupled with the dramatic rise in their time spent on the Internet, indicates that social media has significantly carved out time generally reserved for traditional media.

Katrina Wittkamp | Photodisc | Getty Images

Those are just some of the highlights from the Continuum Crew's 2009 follow-up to our Economic Impact Study. Most significant is the shift in the media consumption of this age group (defined as the generation born between 1946 and 1964).

Other key findings about Boomer media consumption are:

  • Gap in Print Media Usage

The Ikes or the “Silent Generation” (those born between 1934 and 1945) and Leading Edge Boomers (those born between 1946 and 1954) still use traditional media more than members of Generation Jones (those born between 1955 and 1964), or Generation X.

But not all Boomers consume media in the same way—the biggest gap being between older and younger Boomers. This is most striking within traditional print media, with high consumption by older Boomers of newspapers and magazines.

  • Internet Growing in Popularity

Among all media services listed, Boomers were least willing to give up the Internet, versus the top response of the 2008 survey: their cell phone. This is not surprising, as the survey shows they now spend more time now than ever online (a rapid increase in one year from 38% to 62% stating they now spend more time online).

  • Catching Generation X on Social Networking

The majority of Ikes and Boomers we surveyed have joined the popular social networking site Facebook within the last six months.

In interpreting all the responses about media consumption by Baby Boomers, they reflect the convergence of technology and content. Boomers are becoming more aware that national and local news, magazines, and to some extent television and movies, are available via the Internet. This may even indicate an increasing preference to access content online.

Also, these responses illustrate a seismic shift among older adults experimenting in the social media arena. This presents an inviting challenge to product marketers (beyond the platform networks themselves); how they will work to engage those users who are merely ‘lurking’ and not fully participating? This is something we will try to learn in our next installment of this research.

Emergence of the New Social Media Maven

In the survey’s measurement of levels of social media involvement, clear respondent types emerged, based on levels of interpersonal contact (whether in-person or not) and levels of recommendation of products or services to those in their personal or social network.

One of these respondent types forms a significant segment within the Boomer segment; we have dubbed them the new ‘Social Media Maven’: the Boomers who said they connected with the most contacts each day and made the most recommendations. The profile of this group is one that is heavily connected, exploring and expanding their networks.

These Social Media Mavens have more frequent contact with individuals across all types of groups within their social network—not just family or neighbors, but issue-oriented groups and co-workers as well. Not merely amassing ‘friends’ or ‘connections’ within these networks, they are communicating and connecting regularly.

Interestingly, they also have more face-to-face contact and use smart phones more than other Boomer respondents. They are equally likely to be male as female, which defies the stereotypical female profile of the voracious social media consumer.

Of this 'Social Media Maven' group, the majority is still working, more likely than the other segments to own their own business, most likely to engage in volunteer activity and to have the highest household income. Social Media Mavens are more likely to try new products, technologies and seek new experiences. They are recommenders who embrace the role of technology in their connected lives, which is a huge insight and opportunity for technology companies or those using online media to reach consumers.

With more time being spent online, and the emergence of the new Social Media Mavens among Boomers, this is further confirmation for companies targeting the mature consumer that online media should be at the core of an integrated marketing campaign. The aging of America is shaping global marketing trends and no one is fueling the zeitgeist more than Boomers, who are craving great brand stories and a reason to align themselves with a brand.

Although they are the ‘have-it-my-way’ generation, many companies are missing a step—the invitation to meet their brand and the opportunity to personalize their message.

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Lori Bitter is Founder and President of Continuum Crew, the nation’s only fully integrated communications firm focused on engaging the mature 40+ consumer. She is former President of JWT BOOM (now closed), which was the country’s leading mature market advertising and marketing company. Lori is a respected speaker and author of numerous white papers on topics relevant to the senior and Boomer population. She can be reached at: lori.bitter@continuumcrew.com. Her blog, Boomers in the Wild, can be found here: www.boomersblog.org


Watch "Tom Brokaw Reports: Boomer$!", Thursday, March 4 at 9pm ET on CNBC. The program will also air Saturday, March 6 at 7pm ET; Sunday, March 7th at 9pm ET; and Monday, March 8th at 8pm ET.

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