Social media in a generational comparison

What happens when people of all ages are out and about on social networks

 Christina Heekeren-Thür | © punkt & komma
Christina Heekeren-Thür
Social media marketer
We’re sure you – or your best friend – are familiar with the following situation: Your mother shares countless posts about world improvement topics while your granny likes pictures of wiener dogs. And to make matters worse, they leave private statements in the comments below your pictures … 

You’re right in the middle of it all and keep asking yourself: Seriously?! Does your family act exactly like that on social media? The answer is yes! Because just like tastes vary, the online user behaviour of Generations X, Y, Z and 50+ differs. You’ll see … 

Generation Z

Generation Z grew up with social media and is online constantly and everywhere (on mobile devices). A life without apps, social media, clouds and the like? Unthinkable! 

If you have a look at the daily visitor numbers of Generation Z, one thing becomes quite clear: YouTube definitely beats Facebook. Instagram comes in third – just ahead of Snapchat. Why is that? Users use the video platform more and more as an alternative search engine or TV replacement. And they’re constantly searching for something – be it a tutorial for Photoshop or make-up tips by bloggers. 

But please don’t create long-form content for Generation Z! Their attention span is very sho …
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„Hey, it’s me!“

Generation Z likes one thing first and foremost: to present itself. Individualism, material values, career, business and status symbols matter to them in real life. And this shows on social media. You’d better believe this generation knows the ins and outs of self-portrayal and self-dramatisation. The goal: recognition, recognition, recognition! 

Still: The Zs shouldn’t be underestimated! They’re ambitious. Presenting yourself works best if you’ve already accomplished something, after all. And they also think more globally than previous generations because the whole wide world is at their fingertips online. 

These are the social networking sites where you can reach Generation Z: 

  • YouTube
  • Instagram stories 
  • Snapchat

In a nutshell: Teens love visual content!

Generation Y

Its members are digital natives as well – meaning, they grew up in the digital world – but when social media became a mass phenomenon, they were already in their teens or in their twenties. They spend about 6.5 hours a week on Facebook and the like. In a ranking of the most visited social networks, Facebook is at the top of the list for their generation. YouTube places second and Instagram third. 

What do millennials want from their (work) life? To be happy! Their credo: Why dive into work when part-time jobs or flexible working conditions are sufficient to get by? 

They’re constantly searching for meaning in their lives and are thus often called Generation “why”. At university, this age group tends to study humanities or social sciences. Be honest, do you recognise yourself? 
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Holiday photos, sports and nature pictures, a sparkly lifestyle and healthy food choices
Key terms that we connect with the posts of this generation. Sounds exactly like the bloggers that you follow? No wonder, because a lot of influencers are members of this generation. 

Life’s too short for bad content! That’s exactly why millennials think about what and why they post something. Quality over quantity. Since they switch jobs frequently, they only publish what employers are allowed to see. Drunk party pics? Tag not accepted! 

You’ll reach Generation Y on the following social networking sites:
  • on Facebook, with news and info about brands that they already trust 
  • on Pinterest, for product info 
  • on Instagram, where Generation Y likes to be visually inspired

Generation X

One thing matters first and foremost to this generation: knowledge. Because knowledge is power. And everyone likes to have a bit of that, right? The Xs constantly want to keep learning. Their motto: “Enjoy life while you’re still young!” 

They spend about seven hours a week on social media. That’s more time than Generation Y spends on social networking sites. Facebook is the undisputed winner in popularity. Followed by YouTube and Instagram, a distant third. Interesting: A picture says more than a thousand words is not necessarily their credo. They like to share their lives by way of words. 
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Generation X proves:
The older people get, the more they “share”. The likelihood that this age group reads your post and shares it is much higher than with Generation Y. The Xs primarily want to elicit an emotional response from their peers or entertain them. 

You’ll reach Generation X on the following social networking sites: 
  • Facebook
  • Pinterest
  • Xing and LinkedIn
  • Twitter 

Interesting: This generation loves extensive long-form content.

Social media and the baby boomers

The number of senior users or digital immigrants in web 2.0 is continually increasing: Almost a fourth of Facebook users consists of this generation. The baby boomers spend about five hours a week on social media. 

People of this age group like to connect with family members on social networking sites. Often, that’s the only way they can stay up to date on what their kids and grandkids are doing.
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Generation 50+
Another reason why Generation 50+ spends time on social media is loneliness. On Facebook and the like, they can communicate with other people around the clock. It’s also much easier to find like-minded people online than via a newspaper ad that reads “Male, 60, looking for a lady for in-depth conversations …”. 

“What happens on social media stays on social media!” Unlike Generations X, Y and Z, social media has no relevance to Generation 50+ outside of Facebook, etc. They hardly ever talk about what they saw or did online. 

You can reach Generation 50+ on the following social networking sites: 
  • Facebook 
  • Pinterest

Tip: If you’d like to win the baby boomers over, you should provide factual content and targeted ads. 
As you can see: Every generation has its own user behaviour on social media. Which generation are you? And: Do you recognise yourself? 

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