Posted by : Bathabile Dlodlo Friday, 17 March 2017

Sprout Social is a company that monitors trends on social media. Every quarter they release a report called the Sprout Social Index that includes analytical information on how we use social media. For the first quarter of 2017 their report focused on how the different generations use various social media platforms.

Gathering information on how people of different age groups use social media can give marketers insight on how to communicate to these audiences to meet their specific expectations. Sprout Social interviewed 1,000 Millennials (ages 18-34), Gen Xers (ages 34-54) and Baby Boomers (ages 55+).

Facebook Comes Out On Top

Ever since it was founded in 2004, Facebook has been the juggernaut of social media platforms - the one we keep going back to when Twitter becomes an information overload or when our Instagram feeds get boring. They’ve achieved this by continually improving user experience on the site and diversifying their offering by buying up other companies.
Facebook came out on top in this survey, obviously. It was identified as the favourite social media platform by Millennials, Gen-Xers, and Baby Boomers - proving that every generation is the Facebook Generation. But this isn’t surprising - everybody is on Facebook, from your younger cousin, to your older sibling, your parents, and even your gran.

Let’s Compare

What is interesting is that a lower percentage of Millennials listed Facebook as their go-to social media network of choice, while Gen-Xers and Baby Boomers’ preference for Facebook was much more pronounced. Rather, Millennials spread their social preference between Facebook (33%), Instagram (22.2%) and Snapchat (15.8%).

Sprout even included a subset for younger Millennials aged 18-24 who have a stronger preference for Instagram with 25% of respondents naming it their favourite. Baby Boomers don’t seem to like spending time on Snapchat or Instagram, but this is hardly surprising. The content posted on these platforms is image based and disposable, and judging by the fact that Google+ is the second most popular with this generation, Baby Boomers want lengthier content that they can sink their teeth into. That being said, only 14% of Boomers interact with the content that brands post on social media, making them largely silent observers.

Getting Those Follows

We can get better insights when we start analysing user engagement on these platforms. Sprout’s survey found that both Millennials and Gen-Xers are twice as likely to follow a brand on social media than Baby Boomers are. Sprout also found that more than half of the respondents (58.9% of Millennials, 50.4% of Gen-Xers, and 55% of Baby Boomers) will follow a brand on social media before buying from them. Managing your social presence gets tricky when it comes to serving content that your followers will be interested in.

While Millennials are more interested in the entertainment value of brand posts, Gen-Xers are more interested in promotions and competitions. Doing a bit of research into your followers will give you more insight on the type of content that you should be posting.

What Makes Them Unfollow

With each generation showing interest in different content, it only makes sense that they would unfollow for different reasons. Surprisingly (because you would have expected this statistic to apply to “Social Justice Warrior” generation Millennials,) Gen-Xers are the most likely generation to unfollow a brand because it posted something offensive or that was in opposition to their personal beliefs. For Millennials, they unfollow brands for two main reasons: bad experience (21% of respondents) or because they found the posts annoying (22%). 29% of Baby Boomers listed spam as the main reason to unfollow.

Read the rest of the survey

There’s far more information available on the Sprout report than I can condense into a blog post. If you’d like to get more information, read the full first quarter report here. It contains more information about buying habits and industry interests.

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