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How to communicate with all generations on social media during the pandemic

Social media is a democratic space where you can find content about anyone, and anything. From cooking tips to home workouts, cat memes to unboxing videos, there’s a topic of interest for everyone. When it comes to specific social platforms, generational ownership is very real with Gen Z championing the use of TikTok dance videos and millennials posting endless images of avocado on toast all over Instagram. But the recent lockdown and social distancing has encouraged many of us to spend more time online, and for older generations, this is new territory.

In the wake of coronavirus, we’re seeing our parents, grandparents and great aunts and uncles turning to platforms like Facebook and WhatsApp to communicate with family or reconnect with old friends, and some are even turning to TikTok much to the horror of Gen Z. A quick swipe through your feed and you’ll notice generations that were once hesitant to contribute, are now posting regularly. During March alone, WhatsApp saw a 40% increase in usage and Instagram has also seen a 20% growth in engagement. What once was a huge divide between Gen Z and Boomers is starting to close.

Whilst generational differences have been overstated in the past, there are vital distinctions such as platform preference and time spent, which, as the spending power of younger generations grows, companies are racing to get to grips with. But what remains true, despite the age group, is that authenticity is key. As communicators, we need to cautiously amend our output to reflect this shift and recognise that these ‘new’ generational differences will continue to impact our ‘new’ normal, too.

So, what are the best ways to build an intergenerational campaign and what are some of the most common pitfalls to avoid?

Focus on strengths

It’s imperative to leverage the strengths that each generation has to offer. Considering the fact that Gen-Z hasn’t lived in a world without the internet, they are easily the most skilled and social media literate generation of them all. The success of TikTok is built on Gen Z users and content, and while it might seem foreign to most Boomers, it has quickly become the new wave of digital communications. Contrary to this, Boomers have become avid Facebook users and spend more time curating and engaging in conversations and discussions. So, if you want your brand to stay relevant, it’s key to leverage the knowledge and expertise of each generation.

Test, test, test

A/B testing is a method that stands the ‘test’ of time. When applying to social platforms, it allows you to determine what marketing materials are most effective for certain audiences. A piece of content can be adapted in tone, length, style and punctuation and targeted to various demographic audiences. When targeting a piece of content at a Gen-Z, keep the tone light, friendly and incorporate relevant emoji’s and pop culture references. Millennials, however, value authenticity and socially responsible messaging above all else. With years of social media knowledge under their belt, they are quick to pick up on even the most discreet of advertising techniques and hate being sold to. Boomers value in-depth analysis, but are attracted to content that is informative and relevant. While this generation is considered more ‘mature’, a huge mistake that is often made is the use of condescending language and the assumption that Boomers are not technically competent. Testing these theories across audiences is an easy way to decipher a strategic approach for each demographic.

Purpose at the core

To thrive in a multi-generational landscape, businesses need to re-evaluate their purpose and ensure it incorporates the various attitudes, preferences and experiences each generation offers to be truthful at the core. Seeking input from all parties is extremely valuable to this process, to ensure each generation is fairly represented. And now more than ever, purpose is king for businesses and may guide their future depending on how they react now.

If there’s one thing I’ve learned as a business leader in this unprecedented time, is that everyone reacts differently. Not only will the post-lockdown world look and feel different, but consumers as we once knew them will have also evolved, so understanding them will be paramount to success.

Written by Sarah Moloney London managing director of agency KWT Global

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