By Jenn Riggle
This year, 2.8 million Baby Boomers will turn 65 and become eligible for Medicare. However, the bigger news probably should be that 2011 also marks the year when the average Boomer turns 54.
In their mid-fifties, most Boomers have raised their kids, but are still working and starting to plan for their retirement. And in their shadow are the younger Boomers, also known as Generation Jones, who are just a couple of years older than Gen Xers and have little in common with their older counter parts.
These groups have very different views of the world, but they’re all turning to social media as a way to reconnect with friends and colleagues and create a greater sense of community.
Newsweek wrote an article about the graying of social networks. According to Pew Research, 43 percent of 55 to 64 year olds are using social media, with 73 percent of the online Boomers say Facebook is their network of choice. They haven’t felt the same attachment for other forms of social media, with only 10 percent using Twitter and even less reading or writing blogs.
Boomers have long been the media darlings and seen as a prime target for marketers – and this hasn’t changed. However, while Boomers continue to lead active and healthy lives, they’re at an age when they’ll start to need more healthcare services, whether it’s taking medications to lower their cholesterol or replacing their knees and hips damaged after years of running and weekend sports.
According to Newsweek, the three most common online activities for Boomers are: checking e-mail; searching for information; and researching health issues. It’s interesting to note that the first two are also the most common online activities for those who are 18-33.
Here are some important takeaways for healthcare marketers:
You’re only as old as you feel: Boomers consider themselves mature, but not old, so don’t make the mistake of calling them “seniors.” Research from Pew Research and Del Webb (a builder of active adult communities) reveals that most Boomers believe that old age begins at 72 or 80.
Keep it simple: While Boomers don’t read blogs, they like to read product reviews. That’s why it’s not surprising that 23 percent of Amazon’s audience is over the age of 50. Organizations targeting Boomers should take an Amazon approach to your site. Re-evaluate your website’s usability and cut down on excessive wording, too many graphics and clickthroughs, which can complicate the experience.
You can’t hit a home run unless all of your bases are covered: This is true for social media as well. Hospitals have embraced Facebook and Twitter, but have turned their backs on blogs. With so many people searching the Internet for health information, organizations need to make sure their website is user-friendly and linked to their social media properties.
Skip the mobile app and create a mobile-friendly website: Forrester reported last year that cell phone usage is widespread across every age bracket, and the smart phone usage is picking up momentum with Gen X and Gen Y. That being said, organizations should think about creating a mobile-friendly version of their website, since more and more people are using their phones for Internet research. And while a mobile app may be sexy, they’re expensive and right now and aren’t the best way to reach Boomers.
Don’t forget e-mail: E-mail continues to be an effective communications tool, especially since the majority of Boomers are still working. Think about adding an opt-in e-mail making campaign to promote your next initiative or develop an online community.
Word to the wise: Don’t expect Boomers to ride off into the sunset now that they’re 65. Instead, find ways to reach out to them in ways that appreciates their busy schedules and need for information.