Maximizing Social Media for Each Generation
- Gen Ys and young Gen Xers like humor, irony, and lots of images.
- Boomers and Traditionalists may have less tolerance for certain kinds of humor and violence.
- Remember the shorter attention spans and impatience of Gen Ys as well as how much they value their personal time.
What are the biggest mistakes communicators make when trying to reach multigenerational audiences through social media?
- Not challenging assumptions about who uses social media and who doesn't and how they use it.
- Not varying the message and format. Offer messages in a choice of media; video is becoming dominant.
- Not varying the degree of directness of the sell. Older generations, especially, need to develop a relationship before being open to a pitch.
- Not considering the image of celebrities and spokespeople used so that the audience relates (young, old, thin, athletic, etc.).
- Not focusing on engagement. Gen Ys, especially, expect free samples before buying and free information, games, and contests.
- Know your audience.
- Vary the format and language if possible.
- Build in ways to engage, such as contests and quizzes.
- Provide free information to build a relationship, credibility, and trust.
- Remember that diversity of learning styles crosses generations, as does personal style. Incorporate some of each in each message.
Do Baby Boomers use social media differently than other generations?
- They retain more separation of professional and personal information.
- They have more privacy concerns than younger generations.
- As much time as many Boomers spend on social media, they aren't on it as continuously as younger generations.
- They may have different definitions of what's news (Gen Ys think whatever they do is news and worthy of an update to their world).
- Gen Ys use social media, such as Foursquare , for invitations, checking in at venues, meeting up, and getting recognition for use. All generations use Eventbrite .
- Younger generations feel more comfortable selling on social media.
How do different generations use social media? What do they share with their work/personal contacts?
- We need to remember that social media is more than Facebook and Twitter. It's also LinkedIn, YouTube, Pinterest, Google+, Foursquare, Tumblr, Instagram, blogs, podcasts, Evoca , and many more all the time – and many platforms integrate/share with each other.
- They share information and free advice to get followers.
- Gen Yers are eager to connect with Baby Boomers for business contacts. (I get lots of LinkedIn invitations from Gen Yers, including students, after networking events.)
- Gen Y shares everything. They tend to blur the personal and professional.
What about video and YouTube usage by the different generations?
- YouTube has the second highest level of traffic among the social media platforms. Most videos used for inspirational purposes and product pitches are short (two to five minutes, but up to ten minutes); however, there are exceptions. For example, TED  talks have high traffic and are often up to sixty minutes.
- We're seeing a lot of nostalgia/retro themes; for example, Super Bowl and other ads on TV and social media. For Boomers, it's nostalgia and familiarity; for Gen Yers, it's camp.
What's the biggest surprise about Baby Boomer and Gen Y social media use?
- Boomers glommed onto LinkedIn and Twitter for business quickly and became the fastest-growing generation segment on those platforms.
- Gen Yers aren't all on Twitter. Some are even leaving Facebook for Tumblr, Instagram, Pinterest, and other newer platforms – and, of course, YouTube.
What would you add to these responses? Are you observing changes in the way different generations use social media? Please share your observations and thoughts at firstname.lastname@example.org  or the Cross-Generational Conversation group on LinkedIn.