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How Different Generations Interact with Brands on Social Media

The social media landscape is becoming more and more crowded with data by the day. Yet, one of the most important stats continues to be who is using social media and how are they using it.

The latest Sprout Social Index reveals generations of consumers are interacting differently with brands on social media, not merely in terms of engagement, but in purchasing activity as well.

Nearly seven in ten Gen Xers will likely purchase something from a brand they follow — more than any other generation surveyed. Conversely, baby boomers are more likely to observe silently, with only 14% regularly initiating a dialogue with a brand on social. Millennials, on the other hand, embrace the ability to communicate directly, as 30% engage with a brand at least once per month.

“Each social message should be tailored to your community, have a purpose, and be measured against goals,” says Andrew Caravella, VP of strategy and brand engagement at Sprout Social. “The result is a more holistic, authentic social presence that connects with customers on a human level.”

Other insights from the report include:

  • Millennials are twice as likely than other generation to turn to social, rather than phone or email, to communicate with a brand

  • Facebook is the most popular network for 43 percent of respondents

  • Millennials and Gen Xers are nearly twice as likely to follow a brand on social media than baby boomers

  • Only one in 10 social messages actually get a response from a brand

  • Gen Xers are twice as likely to unfollow a brand that says something offensive or in opposition to their personal beliefs than any other generation

There is no longer a Facebook generation, as once believed, according to the report, as across all three generations, respondents identified Facebook (43.6%) as their social network of choice. Collectively, respondents found Facebook to be 29% more popular than Instagram — the respondents’ nearest, cross-generational preference.

While these statistics may appear as a vanity metric to some brands and marketers, Caravella urges these findings should not be easily dismissed.

“The underlying, strategic theme in this data is simple: understanding your audience can change everything,” said Caravella. “When 60% of your followers are ready and willing to buy from your brand, it is important that you put effort into uncovering the triggers that will push them beyond the like to an actual purchase.”

For the latest social index, Sprout Social surveyed 1,000 Millennials (ages 18-34), Gen Xers (ages 34-54) and Baby Boomers (ages 55+).

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