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The Pew Internet & American Life Project released its second ‘Generations” reportlast week, with data about what various cohorts – from Gen Y/Millennials to Baby Boomers to the Greatest Generation – are doing on the Internet.  Turns out, these cohorts are becoming more alike in their online activities.  A quick synopsis:

Activities Dominated by Millennials

Pew found that Gen Y/Millennials aged 18-33 are much more likely to use instant messaging, watch a video, or play online games.  While larger numbers of older Americans are joining online social networks, they still lag their grandkids/great grandkids in this activity.  Social network sites are used by:

* 16% of Greatest Generation (74+)
* 34% of Silent Generation seniors (65-73 years old)
* 43% of older Baby Boomers (56-64)
* 50% of younger Boomers (aka Generation Jones, 46-55)
* 62% of Gen X (34-45)
* 83% of Gen Y/Millennials

Use of the Internet itself is an area where older cohorts still lag.  79% of all Americans go online, states Pew, yet younger folks are overrepresented in a census of Web citizenry.

The percentage of each generation who go online

Chart: Pew Internet & American Life Project, Generations 2010

Online Activities Where Older (Gen X, Boomers & matures) Dominate

Pew found only 2 areas where older cohorts are more likely than Millennials to be active:  visiting government websites and getting financial information online.  Consistent with lifestage, Baby Boomers and Silent Generation seniors are spending the most time seeking out financial information, including mortgage rates, stock quotes and advice to help them plan for retirement or make the best of un-retirement.

Everybody Loves Email

As Pew puts it, the bulk of online activities are now more consistently popular across the age groups.  Some have significant differences between the oldest cohort (Greatest Generation) and the youngest (teens & Millennial) generations – if they didn’t, THAT would be a headline!

For marketers feeling the pressure to put dollars into social media, if you’re targeting Boomers and beyond, remember that email is used by nearly 9 in 10 of all people over 50.  Email is the most popular of all online activities regardless of age:

* 88% of 74+ers
* 90% of the Silent Generation
* 93% of older Boomers
* 91% of younger Boomers
* 94% of Gen X
* 96% of Millennials

Now that Pew has detailed what online activities Boomers and seniors are pursuing, how do you apply these statistics to your marketing program?

In January 2011, Creating Results will release findings from our proprietary, national survey of mature consumers that could offer some answers.  More than 400 consumers over 40 answered questions about web preferences – pet peeves, favorite features & more – and attitudes toward social media.

And we went “beyond the numbers,” inviting 40+ Americans to share their opinions in their own words.  There also are specific take-aways for those marketing housing to Boomers and seniors.

To be first to receive the full findings of “Social, Silver Surfers,” please register here:  http://www.creatingresults.com/silver_social_surfers/.

About The Author

Erin Read

Erin Read spearheads integrated and digital marketing programs for organizations targeting mature consumers. She writes, researches and speaks about marketing to baby boomers and seniors. Erin has addressed local, regional, international conferences on generational marketing. She is the co-author of three national studies/eBooks (Photo Finish; Social, Silver Surfers 2010 & 2013) and the principal blogger for Mature Marketing Matters.

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