Why You Shouldn't Stereotype in Social Media

stereotypes-quoteOnce upon a time I accepted a job at an agency that focused only on senior and baby boomer products. I previously only worked with millennials on social media, and the company hired me to find out how seniors and baby boomers utilized social. I was over the moon with the challenge, but also thought I would only have a job for a couple of months because, afterall, baby boomers and seniors hated computers and weren't on social.

Let me tell you, I had a major wake-up call within a couple hours of that sparkly new job. Not only are baby boomers and seniors all over social, but they are the fastest growing demographic on some of the major networks. Mindblown.

I immediately began working on a strategy for this highly populated audience of seniors and baby boomers on social media. I crafted multiple campaigns tailored to the 50+ age range and made sure hip, 50+ models were included in all of our social images.

As I was approaching the peak to being pretty pleased with myself in creating an effective, baby boomer/senior laced campaign for this agency, I came across an article that absolutely stopped me in my tracks. To this day, I remember the exact moment the lightbulb turned on while reading this simple, yet enlightening, post. It was literally a baby boomer telling off multiple brands for marketing to baby boomers with cliche images of baby boomers. He kindly reminded these brands that everyone actually sees themselves quite a few years younger, and baby boomers actually wanted to see young, attractive people, too, when being marketed to! They actually felt targeted and overly marketed to if marketing materials included older models, instead of the norm. WTF?!

This opened my mind up to segmenting, in general. I was a millennial with limited disposable income, however, I was drawn more to the ads from luxury brands with older models in them that I could dream of becoming someday.  From that point on, I tweaked the social strategy for the agency and clients, calling out younger models and younger ideals, as well as the baby boomer and senior stereotypes. Our engagement  boomed (no pun intended).

I owe a lot to the author of that blog post that day. (I wish I could remember his name, or find the post, so I could give him credit here!) His outrage at stereotypes in marketing messages opened up an entirely new world for me. From that point on, I thought less about the target audience, and more about the fact that different people respond to different messages, and it's important to sprinkle messages that apply to a vast range of demographics within your targeted audience messages so you can make sure you are reaching absolutely everyone you want to.

I'm not saying disregard segmenting altogether, but I am saying to test out a few out-of-your-segemented-audience posts and see how your social community responds to them. You might find out that they, too, view themselves at a different age than you do...and quite possibly have different interests then the stereotype you were linking them to!

- Marji J. Sherman

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