More women over age 45 are using social media than ever before, leaving marketers scrambling to take advantage of the massive female baby boomer population, which typically boasts a higher average disposable income than other age groups.
According to Facebook, since September 2008, the number of women over 55 on the site has tripled and makes up the social network’s fastest-growing age group. In addition, more than 60% of boomers, both men and women, are avid consumers of social media, according to Forrester Research. Combine that with the fact that female consumers of all ages make more than 80% of discretionary purchases, and it’s no wonder baby boomer women are in the spotlight.
“For a long time, I think these groups were underserved online, but boomer women are getting a fair amount of attention right now,” says David Weigelt, chief marketing strategist and partner at Immersion Active, an Internet marketing agency specializing in “mature” markets. “If you’re looking at women with discretionary income, marketers will naturally gravitate towards boomers.”
Marketers have reached these women both efficiently and successfully through social media, says Stephen Reilly, co-founder of VibrantNation.com, a social network geared to boomer women. “It allows marketers to engage these consumers in ways they haven’t before,” he says. “It’s a mistake to ignore this demographic in categories where marketers know this group is driving a lot of their profitability and loyalty.”
But deeply embedded stereotypes of older women can trip marketers up, cautions Carol Orsborn, senior strategist of VibrantNation.com and author of Boom: Marketing to the Ultimate Power Consumer — the Baby-Boomer Woman.
“The baby boomer generation has had to incorporate many different forms of technology into our lives – we’ve been here for every one of these innovations,” she says. “This is a generation that’s always looking for what’s next, what’s better, how can we stay on the leading edge.”
Some industries have been more open to marketing to baby boomer women online, including book publishers, pharmaceutical companies and financial service companies, Reilly says. Other sectors are becoming more aware of reaching boomer women online, including fashion and beauty.
“A lot of cosmetics brands are not necessarily as comfortable yet as they will be in investing resources and energy and deliberately trying to engage this market,” Reilly adds.
To reach this group successfully online, marketers must keep some important points in mind, say experts. One, says Orsborn, is to make sure not to lump them in with seniors.
“It’s a very distinct market,” she explains. “Seniors are boomers’ parents, so if you think you’ll hit both with one message it will backfire.”
Realizing that boomers interact differently online than younger generations is what reaching baby boomer women is all about, says Mary Brown, the director of marketing at Eastland Shoe who co-wrote Boom with Orsborn and maintains a blog at Boomerwomenmarketing.com.
“It’s not like a 20-something who quickly goes online, texts, sends a message, and then they’re out,” she explains. “Boomers take more time making those connections, with longer e-mails or texts.”
Also, she says, content is king — it leads to social networking, not the other way around. “It really has to be relevant and when you’ve got them with the content it can engage boomers to engage more on the social networking side.”
VibrantNation.com’s Reilly also points out that for women over 50, age in and of itself is not a defining characteristic — it’s is the transitions and life stages that matter most, whether it’s family, relationships, work, sex or other topics they want to connect with other women about.
“They’re saying things online they don’t necessary want to share with everyone on Facebook, but they want to have conversations with women going through the same things as them,” he says.
And don’t forget, says Orsborn, that boomer women are nearly everywhere that young women are, so marketers might consider developing campaigns that don’t ignore the older demographic while still courting younger women.
“If there’s a topic that boomer women are interested in, boomer women will be there in larger than average numbers because of the size of their demographic,” she says. “So if you’re going to show an ad that has women in it, it wouldn’t hurt to have one woman be a hip older woman in a yoga posture or climbing a mountain.”
The bottom line, adds Immersion Active’s Weigelt, is that during this recession where so few areas are showing growth, targeting baby boomer women is a no-brainer.
“Even in this economy, boomers are outspending younger consumers two to one, so I do think the sky’s the limit,” he says. “We’re just scratching the surface with boomers in general, but especially boomer women. These women have more concurrent life events than any other women, from kids graduating from college and parents that need attention to having young kids or considering a second career. This makes them powerful consumers online.
Hyperion wanted to market several of its titles to the very loyal baby boomer women audience, so it partnered with VibrantNation.com on a variety of social media initiatives to drive conversations on the Web site. For example, for Amy Dickinson’s The Mighty Queens of Freeville, the Web site posted an interview with Dickinson that included a book giveaway for which people had to submit comments in order to win. The giveaway was promoted by working to start conversations — including asking women to share the best advice they had gotten from another woman. All feature content surrounding the books was promoted in a weekly newsletter which goes out to more than 50,000 people per week, and was cross-linked for quick access. “It was really just a way to engage our members in conversations and content surrounding the book – there’s no greater influence on women than a reference from another woman like her,” says Stephen Reilly, co-founder of VibrantNation.com.
Home Instead, a company which offers non-medical senior home health care, decided to target stressed-out baby boomer women caregivers over age 50 who might want to consider Home Instead for their parents. Immersion Active began with an offer to win a cruise with other caregivers, which was delivered within several e-newsletters as well as with a special landing page which provided an offer and message that communicated understanding and empathy. It achieved a 6.5% click-through rate and a 32% conversion rate. “Most importantly, it has created more than 10,000 quality relationships with female decision makers at a cost per lead of $14.64 that are translating into sales,” says David Weigelt, chief marketing strategist at Immersion Active.