Synthesio’s Social Media Usage Series, Part 2 (See Part 1): We say that social media is everywhere, but is it truly everywhere? It’s a phenomenon of the last decade, which leaves us with one big question: how much does social media affect the lives of older adults? Does it change from country to country? How can older adults be reached? Today, we’re answering these questions by looking at social media usage statistics by age, courtesy of a recent report from Ipsos, our parent company. Over 9,000 people across 10 countries were surveyed, and here are the key findings on social media usage (or lack thereof) in older adults. Find out how you can effectively reach this group with your message.

Why target older adults?

We’re living longer than ever before. According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there will be more than 2 billion adults over the age of 60 by 2050. That means over one-fifth (22%) of the global population! This age cohort consists of people who will have worked for decades, accumulating enormous spending power over time. Oxford Economics has found that, in the US alone, adults over the age of 50 contribute $7.6 trillion to domestic spending annually. Between 2015 and 2030, Americans over the age of 60 are expected to contribute over 40% to national spending on housing, transportation, entertainment, food, and alcohol. Naturally, businesses are curious about how to reach this group. Here’s where social media usage statistics by age come in.

Social media usage statistics by age: what platforms do older adults use?

Let’s start with which platforms are most beloved by older adults. Earlier this year, Pew Research found that Facebook and Youtube are the most popular platforms for American adults aged 50 and above. Seventy percent of adults between 50-64 report using YouTube while 68% use Facebook. Among adults aged 65 and above, 38% use YouTube and 46% use Facebook.

Who isn’t posting on social media?

We think it’s just as exciting to see information on who isn’t on social media – on a global scale. For comparison’s sake, let’s start with young adults. Around the world, 15% of people aged 16-35 (a.k.a. Gen Z and millennials) never post on social media. On the other hand, 32% of adults aged 50-64 (a.k.a. Baby Boomers) never post on social media. That’s over twice as many compared to young adults!

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The substantial discrepancies between the younger and older generations are apparent across nearly all countries. More specifically, this trend proved true in developed markets, meaning Japan, Australia, the UK, Germany, Russia, France, and the US. In these countries, significantly higher percentages of older adults never post on social media.

However, this was not the case in the emerging markets of Brazil, Mexico, and China. In these countries, there were almost no differences between the posting habits of the young and old.

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Now let’s apply this to the real world. Since older adults in developed markets are often less active online, brands have to diversify where ads are placed. In emerging markets, however, seniors are more active on social media, so most of the advertising budget should be invested in digital ads.

What does this information mean for businesses?

Last year, fashion house Helmut Lang took a unique and refreshing approach to target older adults. It launched a campaign called “The Women of Wales,” which featured elderly models. This campaign celebrated women of all ages and sent the message that fashion is for everyone, regardless of age.

Older adults who see this campaign are likely to identify with these models and support the luxury fashion house. After all, this is a population with enormous spending power.

Helmut Lang pushed the campaign on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. But, given that Facebook and YouTube are the most popular platforms for seniors, more emphasis on these two platforms, in addition to traditional media, might have resulted in greater ROI for the fashion label. 

Nonetheless, our platform found that posts that mentioned Helmut Lang with the “The Women of Wales” campaign had higher positive sentiment (23%) than that of just the brand by itself (17%). Great campaign, Helmut Lang!

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How can government institutions gain actionable insights from social media usage statistics by age?

Unlike businesses, which often have a specific target audience to reach, governments are in charge of spreading information to everyone. Naturally, this can pose a challenge, as the avenues where people access information vary far and wide. Government offices, both federal and local, use social media to inform citizens of emergencies, policies, events, and more. But how can marketing dollars go the furthest?

We’d like to suggest that the patterns we discussed above also be applied to the work of the government. In emerging markets, social media is a cost-effective and useful way to reach citizens. Developed markets, on the other hand, require a more diverse strategy that includes both social media, mailed letters, radio and television ads, and more.

However, some government agencies operate a little differently. For example, let’s take a look at the New York Foundation for Senior Citizens (NYFSC). Their “Home Sharing” program matches senior citizens with extra space in their homes with younger adults looking for affordable housing.

This specific agency is posed with the unique task of targeting two very different age groups: young adults and senior citizens. Recognizing that there’s no one-size-fits-all solution here, the agency promotes this program in different ways.

One such method was through ads in the New York City subway, which is used by millions daily. This strategy casts a wide net and reaches young, old, and everyone in between.

A happy New Yorker shared about this on Twitter.

The agency also posts regularly on their own Twitter page, which can reach young adults.

The New York Foundation for Senior Citizens does an exemplary job of reaching their target audience – young adults and senior citizens. Their strategy is diversified with these groups in mind.

What’s next?

At the end of the day, businesses and governments alike are aiming to communicate their message while minimizing the marketing dollars spent. That’s why it’s crucial to start by understanding the habits of who they’re reaching. As social media and digital platforms continue to grow, the way that people of different ages receive information is further and further removed from the next generation. One generation may use social media entirely differently than the generation right after it! And social media usage statistics by age are always changing. To get a head start on how this all works, get the full 26-page report on social media usage around the world here.