August 28, 2013

Retirees Are the Fastest-Growing Age Group on Social Media: Financial Firms Should Adjust Accordingly

While you might still be a few years away from seeing a six-second Vine video of Great Aunt Glenda “Doing The Dougie,” new research shows that you should no longer be surprised to see Grandma pop up on your Facebook newsfeed.

According to research conducted by the Pew Research Center, seniors over 65 are the fastest growing age group on social media. In fact, the percentage of individuals over 65 who say they use social media has more than tripled to 43% in 2013 from just 13% in 2009. In addition, 60% of baby boomers (50-64 years old) are now using social networks to communicate.

For financial services firms, this means 60% of soon-to-be retirees are now online and scouring social networks for the most recent investment trends, advice, and products. As aging America becomes more comfortable with social media, financial firms should focus on getting up to speed so they can successfully reach this new crop of social media users.

Those nearing retirement will most likely require a different content strategy than recent college grads or newlyweds, since the priorities of those nearing retirement age most likely cover a different set of topics, including protecting nest eggs, altering investment strategies, and lifestyle changes.  The thought of retiring can be daunting, but open communication and online access to advisors and financial services companies can help ease some of those concerns.

Many seniors join Facebook to connect with family and loved ones online. By demonstrating a human online presence, wealth managers and financial firms can further solidify their trusted advisor standing.

On the flipside, financial firms that maintain a robotic social strategy are at risk of isolating current and potential clients. Content is not “one size fits all,” and creating subsets of content to target each demographic demonstrates a client-centric approach.

Knowing all this, here are four things financial firms need to do to get ahead of the curve:

1)   Be where they are

Pew’s research suggests that Facebook is a crowd favorite for older social media users, with nearly all users 65+ using the network. BUT, LinkedIn, Instagram, and Pinterest are also plausible hangout spots, as well as targeted social networks that cater to the needs of travelers, music-lovers, hikers, etc.

Unfortunately, the “Field of Dreams” approach is not an effective social media strategy—building it doesn’t necessarily mean they will come. In addition to creating good content, financial firms need to proactively engage with clients and show them where to find helpful resources.

2)   Give them content they want (not the content you want)

Since investing priorities will be different for those nearing retirement, they will most likely require a different content strategy than recent college grads or newlyweds. Spending the time to better understand each of your target audiences will inform a more thoughtful strategy, which will generate more engagement. In addition, creating groups or specific web-learning areas within your networks for seniors or baby boomers can help new users feel welcome.

3)   Get ahead of the curve

The usage of social media by the 65+ demographic has tripled in four years, and growth is showing no sign of slowing. It’s essential that financial firms have a social media strategy in place and populate each platform with relevant content before new users get there. Most social media users make decisions about who they want to follow or connect with when they first join. If most of your content doesn’t speak to or resonate with your prospective follower/friend, they are unlikely to begin a social dialogue with you.

4)   Be a human being

The world of social media can feel rather cold and unfriendly to a first-timer. A spam-filled, impersonal presence can be even more jarring to new social media users, and non-targeted social strategies can isolate current and potential clients. Maintaining individual relationships with clients and prospects through social media and creating targeted social strategies that speak directly to each age demographic will drive engagement and trust, which will translate into strong relationships.

Stephanie Dressler, Vice President, Digital & Brand Strategy