Baby boomers — the Western world’s vast new giving cohort — now spend more time online than people aged 16-34 … glued to YouTube, Facebook and gaming.
A wise, well-researched guest column by Dr Claire Routley, reprinted with her warm permission
Most people reading my blog will already know that baby boomers are online in large numbers.
However, like me, you might be surprised to learn more about how and why the boomers are engaging digitally.
When I started in legacy fundraising, most charities would mention legacies somewhere on their website.
Yet for most, digital wasn’t really perceived to be an important channel to reach their predominantly older audiences.
However, as the focus of legacy fundraising turns towards the boomer generation, digital is likely to become an increasingly important part of the mix – after all, Bill Gates, Ginni Rometty and Tim Berners-Lee are all babyboomers.
Where are boomers online?
Online usage amongst older age groups has been growing rapidly.
In the UK, for example, recent internet usage amongst the 65-74 age group has increased from 52% in 2011 to 83% in 2019.
- In fact, both boomers and seniors now spend more time online than they do watching TV, spending 27 hours per week online (two hours more per week than people aged 16 to 34).
- 83% of boomers say the internet is their top source of information for topics they want to know more about, higher than friends and family, or TV.
Like younger generations, boomers are also likely to use social media. 82% who use the internet regularly have at least one social media account. Facebook is their most used platform – of its 2 billion active monthly users, 10% are boomers.
- They’re pretty engaged on Facebook too; they’re 19% more likely to share content than other generations and 58% more likely to visit a brand’s page following a social media post than younger generations. Indeed, 21% of boomers say they’re addicted to social media.
54% of boomers say they watch video online with YouTube being their preferred platform (82%).
- However, they might prefer a different style of video than those designed to appeal to younger audiences: it’s been argued that they like videos that are slower-paced and information rich.
- Three-quarters of boomers say they’ve taken action after watching a video, most commonly searching for more information, whilst 3 in 10 of their actions after searching for something involve video video.
Nearly half of all boomers play video games, preferring card games, puzzles or trivia. Indeed, Australian data suggests that the over 55s are the largest segment of online game players.
What are their attitudes to digital?
Boomers seem to be less likely than younger generations to link social media interactions with a sense of self-worth: they were the least likely of the age groups questioned to agree that the number of followers, mentions etc you have on social media, the more successful or popular you are.
They were also concerned about online privacy, consciously limiting the information they gave away online, but, as an age group, being least confident that they were protected from online security threats, despite being the least likely to report security issues.
Alongside security, trust was important to them, with nearly half searching reviews or researching a company’s website before making a purchase.
- The boomers also want high quality experiences with the organisations they engage with online. It’s been argued that the quality of the experience counts for more than the product.
What does all this mean for legacy fundraising? Claire’s good advice:
Rather than assuming our audiences aren’t digitally engaged, we need to understand they’re likely to spend even more time online than younger people.
Digital should therefore be one of the channels that legacy fundraisers consider as part of the communications mix. As well as being online generally, we should be aware that they’re engaging with social media – particularly Facebook.
Video could be a particularly good medium to communicate with boomers, although fundraisers – who tend to be younger than the audiences they talk to – might want to consider the style of video that most likely to resonate with their audience.
More generally, given that boomers seem to have a higher propensity to share, can we create content – video or otherwise – that they will share with their networks?
With any user, fundraisers would want to pay attention to the quality of the online experience that they provide, but it’s likely to be particularly important to the boomer audience.
They also have to be confident that they can trust who they’re engaging with, so ensuring that your legacy pages are seen to be secure, and perhaps giving alternative methods of contact, such as a phone call with a named person, could help to reassure them.
Case studies and real-life examples could also enhance the sense that you’re an organisation who can be trusted with their legacy gifts.
Visit aherncomm.com for more!
- : Tom Ahern