social networks

By Rieva Lesonsky

You know you need to be marketing to your customers on social media. But do you know the best social networks to do that? The answer depends on who your target demographic is. There are some important differences among millennials (age 18-34), gen Xers (age 34-54) and baby boomers (age 55+), according to a survey by Sprout Social. Here are 3 things you need to know.

1. Facebook is the favorite — but it doesn’t end there

All three generations say Facebook is their favorite social network. Overall, 43 percent of respondents prefer it to others. Collectively, it’s 29 percent more popular than Instagram, which is the second most popular platform across generations.

That said, there’s a big divide between millennials and the older two generations. While 64.7 percent of generation X and 65.2 percent of baby boomers ranked Facebook number one, only 33 percent of millennials did.

While 22.2 percent of all millennials and 25 percent of those 18 to 24 ranked Instagram as their favorite social network, the platform (along with Snapchat) didn’t even register for baby boomers. Among boomers, the second and third most popular social networks are YouTube and Google+, respectively.

In contrast to the older generations, millennials split their vote much more evenly between Facebook (33 percent), Instagram (22.2 percent) and Snapchat (15.8 percent). In fact, among younger millennials (ages 18-24), Instagram outranks Facebook as the most popular social network (25 percent and 24.4 percent, respectively).

The takeaway: If you own a B2C business, you should definitely be on Facebook — but that doesn’t mean it’s the only place you should be. Millennials’ more diverse approach to social media suggests they are less likely than older users to focus on one social network even as they get older. How can you manage a presence on multiple social networks effectively? Find out where your particular audience — and any subsets of your target market—spend the most time on social media and focus your efforts there.

2. Millennials and gen Xers are twice as likely as baby boomers to follow businesses on social media

Only 24.5 percent of baby boomers follow brands on social media, compared to 48.6 percent of millennials and 48.8 percent of generation X. What’s more, different generations expect different things from your business when they follow you.

  • Millennials follow brands for entertainment (38 percent) and information (42 percent).
  • Gen X follows for contests (41 percent), deals and promotions (58 percent).
  • Baby boomers want a mix of deals/promotions (60 percent) and information (53 percent).

Now that you know what consumers like, what don’t they like to see on social media? The reasons consumers unfollow brands vary from generation to generation.

  • Millennials are most likely to unfollow a business because of a bad experience (21 percent) or because they found a brand’s social marketing annoying (22 percent).
  • Gen Xers are nearly 160 percent more likely than the other generations to unfollow a business if it says something that offends them or opposes their personal beliefs.
  • Baby boomers primarily unfollow brands because they are getting too much spam/too many irrelevant posts.

The takeaway: One size does not fit all when it comes to what you post on social media. In order for your social media marketing efforts to be successful, you’ve got to have some details about your customer demographics. Who are your target customers? What are they looking for? Observe how they engage with other businesses and brands on social media. Use your social media analytics to see what types of content perform best with each demographic. And remember, the same demographic group may behave differently on one social network than on another.

3. Consumers do buy from businesses they follow.

Across generations, 62 percent of survey respondents say they are likely or somewhat likely to purchase from a brand they follow on social media. Among all generations, 71 percent say they are more likely to purchase after having a positive interaction with a brand on social media.

The takeaway: Don’t just get followers — interact with them. Use social media monitoring tools to stay on top of customers’ conversations and respond to their posts. Keep the conversations positive, and you’ll boost your chances of making the sale.