Social Media Marketing for Gen X: Email is the Killer App

It seems all the madness around social media marketing focuses on the usual suspects: Gen Y and Millennials. But lost in the shuffle is Generation X (30-43 yeas), the most often overlooked group in the eyes of social media marketers.

Last week, Forrester Research released a study that showed 59% of people in this age group are actively participating in social networks, most notably Facebook and Twitter. However, when it comes to sharing purchase recommendations digitally – the great accelerator of word-of-mouth – Gen X behaves quite differently than their younger counterparts.

The current assumption by marketers is that by providing engaging, social-media-enabled content on Facebook, Twitter and others, these networks will categorically spark viral transmission.

However, while these broadcast towers work fine for the under 30 crowd, GenXers find them too public for sharing purchase recommendations (the Holy Grail of word-of-mouth).  GenX shares their influence via more private networks, most notably via email.

Imagine that.  Email – not text, not Twitter – is the killer app for GenX.

This little revelation is important to marketers in three ways:

1. Chiclets Must Value Email: When using sharing applets (called Chiclets), it seems “more is better” rules the day.  The truth is that you should confine the choices to the top networks you target, and make sure “email to a friend” is prominently displayed.  And while you’re at it, populate that email with meta language someone will actually use and content rich with photos or video.

2. Rethink Your Email Marketing Approach: All this social media activity should result in a prospect opting into to your direct campaigns.  But don’t only send inbox-stuffers like “free shipping”, but add real content that engages your best customers and encourages them to share your brand with others, as well as offers.

3.  We Know Virtually Nothing About Social Media Marketing: This study shows that the same social network and combination of networks can be used very differently by different demographics.  We are still in the very early stages of development, and we are sure to see more patterns emerge.  Keep a close watch (or CBC will do it for you!)

As GenX moves into their 40s (some of us are there), they will become more and more the financial engine for many, many companies.  Already jaded and disinterested in most advertising, marketers will find the best success when they seamless fit into the private conversations of this age group.