Generation X: Social Media Laggards

generation x social media laggardsThis is an admittedly small sample set, but I’m noticing a trend among my Generation X friends – those that work in the corporate world and aren’t in technology or marketing are increasingly dazed and confused by social media.

I constantly find myself having conversations that sound like this …

Me showing an investment banker a new website:

Friend: “What’s the “In” icon for?”
Me: “That’s for LinkedIn.”
Friend: “Oh, ok, And what’s the orange megaphone one for?”
Me: “That’s the link for the site’s RSS feed.”
Friend: “What’s an RSS feed?”

Catching up with a corporate real estate analyst:

Friend: “Oooh, oooh – I’ve been meaning to ask you. What are Pinterest and Skype for?”

Translating for the COO of a market research firm:

Me: “Did you see the Instagram pic I tweeted earlier?”
Friend: “I don’t even know what the sentence means.”
Me:  “I took a picture with Instagram and then shared it on Twitter.”
Friend: “I have Instagram on my iPhone but I didn’t know what it was. I thought it was a camera.”

I also have a friend who’s never been on Facebook. That’s right, my parents are on Facebook but my 39 year old friend isn’t.

These 31 to 51 year olds have all embraced online shopping; many have iPads, though their children probably use them more than they do; all have a smart phone but none see any reason to use it in place of a credit card; most make time for home-cooked meals regularly, but few have time to create Pinterest boards of their favorite recipes.

It’s easy to get caught up in the excitement of social media. Will your next post/tweet/video go viral? Have you used the right filter on your photo? Is your comment witty without being offensive? There’s a more important question you should be asking yourself though: is your target audience even listening?

If you’re one of the few marketers actually trying to reach a Gen X audience, stick to well-established platforms like email and Facebook.  Xers won’t be the ones blazing trails on the latest social networks and mobile apps.  Given time and a compelling enough reason, Generation X will eventually catch on … case in point, my investment banker friend finally traded one of her two Blackberries in for an iPhone 5.