With more people of all ages online than ever before, marketers must create content that resonates with multiple generations. Successful marketers realize that each generation has unique expectations, values and experiences that influence consumer behaviors, and that offering your audience content that reflects their shared interests is a powerful way to connect with them and inspire them to take action.
We’re in the midst of a generational shift, with Millennials expected to surpass Baby Boomers in 2015 as the largest living generation. In order to be competitive, marketers need to realize where key distinctions and similarities lie in terms of how these different generations consume content and share it with with others.
To better understand the habits of each generation, BuzzStream and Fractl surveyed over 1,200 individuals and segmented their responses into three groups: Millennials (born between 1977–1995), Generation X (born between 1965–1976), and Baby Boomers (born between 1946–1964). [Eds note: The official breakdown for each group is as follows: Millennials (1981-1997), Generation X (1965-1980), and Boomers (1946-1964)]
Our survey asked them to identify their preferences for over 15 different content types while also noting their opinions on long-form versus short-form content and different genres (e.g., politics, technology, and entertainment).
We compared their responses and found similar habits and unique trends among all three generations.
Here’s our breakdown of the three key takeaways you can use to elevate your future campaigns:
1. Baby Boomers are consuming the most content
However, they have a tendency to enjoy it earlier in the day than Gen Xers and Millennials.
Although we found striking similarities between the younger generations, the oldest generation distinguished itself by consuming the most content. Over 25 percent of Baby Boomers consume 20 or more hours of content each week. Additional findings:
- Baby Boomers also hold a strong lead in the 15–20 hours bracket at 17 percent, edging out Gen Xers and Millennials at 12 and 11 percent, respectively
- A majority of Gen Xers and Millennials—just over 22 percent each—consume between 5 and 10 hours per week
- Less than 10 percent of Gen Xers consume less than five hours of content a week—the lowest of all three groups
We also compared the times of day that each generation enjoys consuming content. The results show that most of our respondents—over 30 percent— consume content between 8 p.m. and midnight. However, there are similar trends that distinguish the oldest generation from the younger ones:
- Baby Boomers consume a majority of their content in the morning. Nearly 40 percent of respondents are online between 5 a.m. and noon.
- The least popular time for most respondents to engage with content online is late at night, between midnight and 5 a.m., earning less than 10 percent from each generation
- Gen X is the only generation to dip below 10 percent in the three U.S. time zones: 5 a.m. to 9 a.m., 6 to 8 p.m., and midnight to 5 a.m.
When it comes to which device each generation uses to consume content, laptops are the most common, followed by desktops. The biggest distinction is in mobile usage: Over 50 percent of respondents who use their mobile as their primary device for content consumption are Millennials. Other results reveal:
- Not only do Baby Boomers use laptops the most (43 percent), but they also use their tablets the most. (40 percent of all primary tablet users are Baby Boomers).
- Over 25 percent of Millennials use a mobile device as their primary source for content
- Gen Xers are the least active tablet users, with less than 8 percent of respondents using it as their primary device
2. Preferred content types and lengths span all three generations
One thing every generation agrees on is the type of content they enjoy seeing online. Our results reveal that the top four content types— blog articles, images, comments, and eBooks—are exactly the same for Baby Boomers, Gen Xers, and Millennials. Additional comparisons indicate:
- The least preferred content types—flipbooks, SlideShares, webinars, and white papers—are the same across generations, too (although not in the exact same order)
- Surprisingly, Gen Xers and Millennials list quizzes as one of their five least favorite content types
All three generations also agree on ideal content length, around 300 words. Further analysis reveals:
- Baby Boomers have the highest preference for articles under 200 words, at 18 percent
- Gen Xers have a strong preference for articles over 500 words compared to other generations. Over 20 percent of respondents favor long-form articles, while only 15 percent of Baby Boomers and Millennials share the same sentiment.
- Gen Xers also prefer short articles the least, with less than 10 percent preferring articles under 200 words
However, in regards to verticals or genres, where they consume their content, each generation has their own unique preference:
- Baby Boomers have a comfortable lead in world news and politics, at 18 percent and 12 percent, respectively
- Millennials hold a strong lead in technology, at 18 percent, while Baby Boomers come in at 10 percent in the same category
- Gen Xers fall between Millennials and Baby Boomers in most verticals, although they have slight leads in personal finance, parenting, and healthy living
- Although entertainment is the top genre for each generation, Millennials and Baby Boomers prefer it slightly more than than Gen Xers do
3. Facebook is the preferred content sharing platform across all three generations
Facebook remains king in terms of content sharing, and is used by about 60 percent of respondents in each generation studied. Surprisingly, YouTube came in second, followed by Twitter, Google+, and LinkedIn, respectively. Additional findings:
- Baby Boomers share on Facebook the most, edging out Millennials by only a fraction of a percent
- Although Gen Xers use Facebook slightly less than other generations, they lead in both YouTube and Twitter, at 15 percent and 10 percent, respectively
- Google+ is most popular with Baby Boomers, at 8 percent, nearly double that of both Gen Xers and Millennials
Although a majority of each generation is sharing content on Facebook, the type of content they are sharing, especially visuals, varies by each age group. The oldest generation prefers more traditional content, such as images and videos. Millennials prefer newer content types, such as memes and GIFs, while Gen X predictably falls in between the two generations in all categories except SlideShares. Other findings:
- The most popular content type for Baby Boomers is video, at 27 percent
- Parallax is the least popular type for every generation, earning 1 percent or less in each age group
- Millennials share memes the most, while less than 10 percent of Baby Boomers share similar content
Marketing to several generations can be challenging, given the different values and ideas that resonate with each group. With the number of online content consumers growing daily, it’s essential for marketers to understand the specific types of content that each of their audiences connect with, and align it with their content marketing strategy accordingly.
Although there is no one-size-fits-all campaign, successful marketers can create content that multiple generations will want to share. If you feel you need more information getting started, you can review this deck of additional insights, which includes the preferred video length and weekend consuming habits of each generation discussed in this post.