When it comes to the workplace, we’ve all heard the conversations: there’s not much that baby boomers, GenXers and millennials have in common. And the same is true about their preferences for online content.

For business owners, the need to market (and sell) your product requires a deep understanding of your customers and their needs. That’s why when it comes providing online and social content, it’s important to understand how generations consume it differently.

The right channel + the right content = more sales

In order to reach specific generations, it’s important to grasp what each loves to consume online. Because it varies. Sometimes greatly.

By understanding generational differences, you can create an optimal mix of social media marketing tactics and content for any brand. Map your business social network presence based on what each customer segment needs, and tailor the type of content you promote across those channels. Choosing the right channels and types of content to share will fuel your customer interactions. Ignoring the differences can mean wasted money and lost sales.

Content that connects across generations

“The Generational Content Gap,” a joint study by Fractl and BuzzStream, surveyed more than 1,200 people about digital content consumption and then charted the major findings into this massive infographic.

From the study, we can see there are a few things all generations have in common:

  • Everyone loves Facebook. By far, all generations prefer Facebook as their content sharing platform.
  • We all read blogs. All 3 groups identified blogs as the form of content they most like to consume. And they all agreed the shorter the better when it comes to length: 300 words is optimal, although GenXers are also more likely to hang in there and read blogs of 500+ words in length.
  • Webinars, SlideShares and white papers get little love. All generations agree these are the least liked content formats.
  • Make it visual. Everyone loves sharing images, memes and videos, so if you can mix in these content forms with your posts, you’ll likely get more interaction and it will help lead to brand loyalty.
  • We all have preferred times to consume content. Nearly 35 percent of millennials and GenXers prefer the window between 8 p.m. and midnight. Meanwhile, baby boomers are best reached in the morning between 9 a.m. and noon. 

Generational differences

Beyond these similarities, generational preference for content genres varies dramatically. So if you’re developing content for a specific niche, consider which generation might be your target audience and be strategic about marketing to their differences.

Connecting with millennials (born 1977-1995)

How millennials think and what they want:

Millennials are the defining social generation. They make their buying choices based on what is trending, and what their friends and family (or even bloggers and peers) recommend. They like the novelty of buying online with apps and new payment options, and they love when brands dive deep and give them a reason to join in a movement or change.

You can gain traction when you find ways to cut through the traditional marketing tactics (which don’t work with millennials) and be innovative. Use social to encourage their sharing of an opinion or a purchase with family and friends or by offering a discount for a review. Millennials respond if they’ve been given some insider access to VIP discounts through a social interaction. If you aren’t already, find a way to produce high-quality images and video. Studies have shown millennials respond best to visual content—think video, memes and images—which gets 94% more views than text-based content.

Bottom line:

Keep it genuine and connect with millennials on a personal level that makes them feel special. The more you’re able to personalize, the more loyal millennials will be to your brand, and the more they’ll recommend you to their friends. This group is going to have enormous buying power very soon, so don’t overlook their influence in changing the landscape for marketers.

Gaining trust from GenX (born 1965-1976)

 How GenXers think and what they want:

GenX is more of an information-seeking generation. They have conservative spending habits and are always concerned with getting the best deal. Use this to your advantage and change your marketing tone when targeting this group. This generation was raised without the Internet, so they appreciate an in-store experience, but they are open to researching and welcome buying online, especially if it makes their lives easier (think subscription meal services like Blue Apron). Because of this, they respond well to email marketing and exclusive coupons and discounts. You are best served if you target GenX by using product comparisons, buying guides and credible product reviews that describe the quality and value of your brand.

Bottom line:

If you can be unique and showcase how your business will help GenX save time or money, you’ll go far in providing the value and trust that this generation desires. Most of their buying decisions are based on price, so use that to your advantage when you carefully curate your marketing language.

Finding baby boomers online (born 1946-1964)

How baby boomers think and what they want:

Most baby boomers are using the Internet to find content about world news, entertainment and politics, and they’re doing it more often than either millennials or GenXers. Can you engage those on social media about current events and connect that to your business? Brainstorm some creative ideas. Boomers are more likely to find content on their laptop or tablet versus a smartphone. And don’t count this group out of the social media arena. Surveys show 34 percent of baby boomers are now on YouTube, 31 percent are on Twitter, and more than half of all online consumers over 65 are active on Facebook.

Bottom line:

Baby boomers are more likely to splurge on themselves during retirement, so feel free to market your premium services or products. Also, try the traditional direct marketing sales tactics and help them engage with a real person—which remains their comfort zone.

Keeping your content smart

You don’t need to focus exclusively on one of these generations for your target market. You just need to be sure to pick your channels wisely, tailor the messaging to the generation, and use the conversion strategy that resonates with that particular set.