When Baby Boomers, Generation Xers and Millennials post on Twitter, they're each limited to 144 characters per tweet. But, according to a June 30 Center for Media Research e-newsletter [link unavailable], that's about all their tweeting has in common.
A new report from Fizziology "outlines social media behaviors, tone and triggers of Millennials, Generation X and Baby Boomers, so marketers can understand how to effectively engage with target audiences." It also shows that those social media behaviors, tones and triggers, at least on Twitter, vary wildly. So do the number of times they tweet, what they tweet about, who they follow, and how they respond to group discussions and marketing promotions – all in radically counterintuitive ways most marketers could never hope to guess.
If your brand's using Twitter to talk to prospective customers, and you've defined which demographic cohort(s) you're tweeting to, all this information will show you how to tailor your Twitter feeds to speak their language(s).
Or you could just take the easy way out and forget the whole thing, secure in the knowledge that, according to recent Gallup research, social media including Twitter exert no influence whatever on 62 percent of consumers' purchase decisions and a great influence on a mere 5 percent.
How often they tweet
It's very logical to assume that Millennials, being digital natives, would be the cohort that tweets most often.
Logical, but wrong.
The most frequent tweeters are Boomers, whose 15-a-day average is more than Xers' (6) and Millennials' (8) combined.
What they hashtag
Boomers' 15 tweets a day are more likely to include lengthy chats, about hashtagged subjects, than disjointed remarks. Boomers also like to engage in "tweetups," which are live meetups arranged by Twitter.
Xers, on the other hand, "use hashtags in political conversation (#WhySheRan), as well as to keep up with unfolding news stories (#MH370)," while Millennials use hashtags mainly to vote in promotions – particularly sports promotions, like the Face of Major League Baseball.
What they tweet about
Boomers talk about family more than Millennials and Xers, and three times as much about shopping.
Gen Xers tweet a lot about health and nutrition, and "are 75 percent more likely to talk about tech news and products/apps than Millennials and Boomers, and often share inspirational, positive messages."
Millennials, who are neither positive nor inspired, devote a lot of their daily eight daily tweets to kvetching. "Millennials express complaints (primarily about school, relationships and general pet peeves) almost two times more than Gen X [which arguably has much more to complain about] and three times more than Boomers," Fizziology notes. As you might expect of the youngest of these three age groups, they also tweet about dating, relationships, sports and music – the last "significantly more than" the two older groups.
You might also expect that Boomers, being the oldest of the three age groups, would have the most things to tweet nostalgically about, but there you'd be wrong; it's the youngest group, Millennials, that's the most nostalgic on Twitter – about the television shows and movies they grew up watching, and about old (maybe as far back as 2009) fashion trends.
What they share
The main thing Millennials share on Twitter is Buzzfeed articles, which account for 21 percent of their shares. They also like to share quiz results. One thing they don't share is news articles from traditional media, which they seem to have little interest in.
What Buzzfeed articles are to Millennials, photos are to Xers. They post more photos (22 percent of their conversations) than either Millennials or Boomers (who post the fewest). The photos they post are most likely to be food and beer porn, travel and event snapshots.
What they watch
Millennials like to watch lots of sports, particularly pro basketball, so they can live-tweet during the games. Same goes for shows with hastags, like Scandal, Teen Wolf, The Walking Dead and True Detective. They also go see, and tweet about, blockbuster movies like Gravity and Captain America.
A lot of what Xers watch is streamed content that they watch socially, "often using TV Tag to customize their social feeds during their favorite shows, which include dramas like House of Cards, Nashville and True Detective." They took their kids to see The Lego Movie and Frozen.
Boomers still prefer their television broadcast, either over the air or by cable. They're "hooked on reality series like the Real Housewives franchise and juicy dramas like Scandal. They are also likely to be fans of NASCAR, and were highly engaged during the Daytona 500."
What they listen to
Millennials tweet significantly more about music, with hip-hop, as you might suspect, being the dominant genre. But they also talk about Golden Oldies – songs and musicians that were big way, way back in the early 2000s.
Xers, who "grew up as fans of Morrissey, The Smiths and David Bowie," still listen to those artists today. Along with the folk sounds of Milk Carton Kids, Norah Jones, Avett Brothers and Beck.
As far and Boomers are concerned, rock and roll is here to stay. But they also enjoy everything from The Smiths to Pavement. And, as you might suspect of NASCAR fans (see above), they're also partial to George Strait, Rodney Atkins and other country musicians.
How they interact with brands
Millennials don't seem to be all that interested in brands. If fact, they mention brand names far less often in their tweets than Xers and Boomers do.
As noted before, Xers talk a lot about health and nutrition, which is an opening for brands in those categories. They're also 75 percent more likely to talk about tech news and products or apps than Millennials or Boomers. "This segment will engage with their favorite brands on social," Fizziology reports. "They appreciate brands with positive messaging and a strong social presence."
Boomers are the group most susceptible to brand messaging. They're three times as likely to tweet about shopping. They're also "significantly more likely to use social media to engage in brand promotions and giveaways than Gen X and Millennials." They respond to do-it-yourself ideas, recipes, giveaways and contests, and are partial to brands like Michael's, Kraft and Frito-Lay that have a strong social media presence.