When we started writing this article, it was a different world.

We wanted to test a hypothesis: There’s a fundamental difference between the way older and younger generations use Linkedin.

Surely, Boomers would be more conservative in the way they use the social network. Maybe they’d avoid showing their personalities or want to keep more information off the net out of a security or privacy concerns. Millennials and Gen Z would be more open to sharing with strangers online. After all, one generation grew up without digital media; the other was practically born with a smartphone in their hands.

Here’s what we learned:

More important than any particular behavioral differences—and there are a few, even if they’re not what we expected — is understanding why your audience uses social media, and where they’re hanging out.

Because the numbers are in:

More than 80 percent of every generation is using social media at least once a day.

The bottom line?

In the current climate as of March 19th 2020, if you’re going to sell on social media, you’ll have to look and spend your time in the right places and approach people in an empathetic way.

Getting Social Matters:

If you’re wondering why you might turn to social media as a sales tool in the first place, meet social selling. The practice describes finding likely prospects through information shared on social networks, and striking up conversations organically through comments, likes, shares, and direct messages. 

We know B2B buyers hang out on social networks. Increasingly, they even turn to social media as part of their research process when they’re learning about and evaluating potential service or product providers. A survey from DemandGen found that not only are 45 percent of buyers spending more time researching purchases, but they’re also using social media to learn more about a topic, ask for suggestions and recommendations from other uses, connect with experts to ask for opinions, and connect directly with vendors.

So if your buyers are hanging out on social, it makes sense that you should be, too

LinkedIn, in particular, says its platform is the preferred place for all things business networking, with 70 percent of sales professionals claiming it’s the place they’re most active. Ask your top performers, and they may reveal that networking platforms are a key ingredient in their success, too. In LinkedIn’s research, 89 percent of top sellers said they’re “very important” or “important” to closing deals, 10 points higher than the rest of the pack.

And, says SuperOffice, reps who are active on social achieve 45 percent more sales opportunities and are 51 percent more likely to hit their quota. Can’t argue with numbers like that. 

Know Who And Where Your Audience Is?

But LinkedIn isn’t the only network worth its salt. Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and YouTube have roles to play, too.

First, some trends. Because, even if these are broad strokes, we need to understand where people are most likely to spend their time and what they’re doing with that time, if we’re going to reach the people we want to reach and send them the right messages.

Boomers

Where are they? While they’re the least active of all the generations on social, they still pull their weight. Especially on Facebook where they spend most of their time, and YouTube, which is a close runner-up.

What are they doing? Most likely, they’re sharing pictures and updates with people in their communities and social circles, but also getting news, advice, and how-tos, and chatting with friends.

How do they interact? With their love of sharing and how-to advice, a good piece of content marketing and a consistent message across media can really make the rounds among this group. As a fairly vocal group, they’re also ready and willing to share opinions via polls and quizzes.

Gen X

Where are they? It’s a mix between Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn for the Forgotten Generation, even if they’re still a little less active than Millennials and Gen Z.

What are they doing? Like the Boomers, Gen Xers flock to social to share pictures and update, get their news, and find how-tos – but they’re more likely to see it as a hang-out place, and an opportunity to expand their professional network than the previous generation.

How do they interact? With a desire for the straightforward and a propensity to share, this group loves a clear call-to-action to engage with content.

Millennials

Where are they? Say what you will, but they certainly haven’t ruined social media use. They’re by far the most active across many sites, especially LinkedIn and Facebook, and rank second in YouTube viewing. 

What are they doing? They’re actually less likely to share pictures and updates than other generations… but they’re more likely to turn to social for news, professional networking, and trolling than any other age group.

How do they interact? Millennials love a good word-of-mouth recommendation or online review, and will often solicit opinions from others. Connections via referrals can go a long way with this group, as can sharing customer stories that show how you shine. Don’t forget to join them in conversations around news posts, too!

Gen Z

Where are they? They may be young, but they’re mighty – dominating YouTube, Twitter, Tik Tok, and Instagram use over all other generations as their networks of choice (though many use Facebook, too).

What are they doing? Our youngest employees share pictures and updates the least out of anyone, but they’re more invested in live chatting with smaller circles of friends, finding inspiration, getting advice, following celebrities, and getting involved in political debates.

How do they interact? It’s all about their circle of influence – they’d rather talk with people they know than strangers on the internet. That said, a little personalization and authenticity can go a long way in earning their trust. 

[Sources: Sprout Social, The Manifest, and Adobe]

Thinking outside of the generational box, there’s one constant that brings us all together: no one likes a wall of text. Every generation prefers visual content, so you can get a lot further by including an image or a video with your posts and messages. 

(Oh, and also: don’t be creepy.)

It’s important to understand who you’re reaching out to before you send that first message. Even more important? Understanding the value of understanding not just the habits of people in different generations but also where they are in life and what they hope to gain from being on those networks. So says a landmark study on generational use in social media from The Manifest. 

 

Tap into that and you’ll be social selling faster than you can hit that “Like” button.

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