Marketers and publishers invest a great deal of energy into optimizing media for the channels and devices that specific audiences prefer, but what about generational preferences?
With so much emphasis on audience personas and psychographic profiling, segmenting audiences according to age may have become a lost art – and the myth mill has us making assumptions left and right. Is it true that Millennials don’t read articles, or that Baby Boomers are averse to social?
In order to understand the online habits of each generation, BuzzStream and Fractl surveyed over 1,200 individuals and segmented their responses into three groups: Millennials (born 1977–1995), Generation Xers (born 1965–1976) and Baby Boomers (born 1946–1964).
Our survey asked them to identify their preferences for over 15 different content types while also noting their opinions on long-form versus short-form content and different genres (e.g., politics, technology, and entertainment). We compared their responses and found similar habits and unique trends among all three generations.
Here are three key takeaways that underscore how to drive user engagement and sharing.
1. Media Consumption at Different Hours
Baby Boomers consume most of their content between early morning and noon, while Millennials and Gen Xers consume the most during late evenings. On any given day, Baby Boomers are most likely to be up early and checking their computers or mobile devices, while Millennials and Gen Xers save their content viewing for later in the evening.
Although it seems like the Baby Boomers’ consumption patterns might correlate with the typical 9-to-5 workday, this doesn’t account for the viewing habits of the employed Millennials, who just recently surpassed Gen Xers as the largest generation in the workforce.
Unlike the Baby Boomers, whose consumption rate begins to drop when night falls, Gen Xers and Millennials see a staggering spike in consumption during the late evening. Gen Xers and Millennials view content between 8 p.m. and midnight about 80% more than the Baby Boomers do.
So your post between 8 p.m. and midnight will reach the largest audience, although many Baby Boomers may not see it until the next morning.
2. It’s All About the Facebook
Facebook is the preferred content sharing platform among all three generations. Across the board, over half of each generation surveyed shares content on Facebook more than any other social media network.
Surprisingly, YouTube comes in second place. Gen Xers use Twitter more than any other generation – 70.4% more than Baby Boomers, in fact. And Baby Boomers take the lead in Google+, using it as a primary sharing platform 92% more than Millennials.
When encouraging users to share, keep in mind that most use Facebook and that some generations use certain niche platforms more than others.
3. No Single Content Type to Rule Them All
Preferred content types and lengths are consistent across all three generations, but specific genres differ significantly. Though reviews round out the Baby Boomers’ top five formats, this content type doesn’t even make the Millennials’ top 10. Also, lists, infographics, guides, and podcasts all fall somewhere in the middle of the list for each generation.
For the most part, though, all three generations are in agreement concerning what forms of content are liked and disliked. Blog articles, images, comments and ebooks are four unanimously preferred types of content, while SlideShares, webinars and white papers were least preferred, although not always in that order. Not only do all three generations agree that a blog article is the most gratifying form of content, but they also agree on how long that article should be: 300 words is the consensus on the perfect article length.
Entertainment is the top genre, or vertical, for all generations and is the only category across the board that each generation enjoys similarly. Millennials lead the way in technology at 18.5%, which is 71% more than the Baby Boomers. The Baby Boomers, however, hold a strong lead in world news and politics.
Before crafting a new piece, consider which format and topic serves your purposes best, to make sure your post resonates with everyone you’re trying to reach.
Targeting Ain’t Easy
Marketing across generational divides can be a major challenge. Contextually, each generation holds certain values and beliefs, and in order to connect with these audiences, a marketer should share content that reflects these convictions. With internet users on the rise in each generation, the volume and variety of consumers make this process even more complex.
It’s possible that no single item of content can drive meaningful engagement with every generation, but a shrewd strategist finds ways to produce experiences that resonate with different segments.