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How many reports titled “Boomers Online” will it take for brands to notice?

The ongoing Pew Research Center's Internet and American Life Project recently released some updated statistics on Baby Boomers and social media. No reader of this blog will be surprised to hear about results showing Boomers are using social media more than ever, and are in fact the fastest-growing generation of social media users.

What readers of this blog can help me understand, however, is the why no one who didn't know these facts already actually seemed to care. The reaction to this news has been evenly divided between those yawned at what they already knew was true, and those who ignored it, once again.

If you feel like we've been here before, you're right.

Almost two years ago, Facebook reported that its fastest-growing demographic was women 55+. I noticed an almost immediate result: most agencies I talked to stopped asking what had been a too-common question: "Are Boomer women really online?"

But little else changed. Agency staffers may have stopped asking whether Boomer women were online, but their clients didn't start paying to reach them there.

For those who think about marketing to Boomers, and to Vibrant Boomer women in particular, the biggest challenge has been why marketers (outside of categories like pharma) aren't actually spending dollars to reach this valuable consumers and aren't spending dollars to reach her online.

The evidence is there, if you're looking. But if you're not looking to begin with, all the evidence in the world won't matter.

At this point, I am really interested in watching what I think will be an inevitable process unfold. I believe that markets are efficient, which in this case means that marketers will end up using the best tools to engage the women whose business they hope to capture. But with regard to Vibrant Women and online marketing I can't predict when they will do so, or what will make them change their minds.

Will it be the endless drip of reports like the Pew's, which eventually build up sufficient mass to break through inertia and custom?

Or will it be an example of an out-of-the-box marketing campaign that succeeds by engaging Vibrant women where they are – a campaign so successful that other marketers will have to take note?

Or will it be because marketers have run out of all other ideas?

No one knows, but the effort does make me wish that a firm like the Pew Research Center would start researching, over time, how much money marketers spend to reach Boomers, and whether they spend those dollars online in the same proportion that they spend to reach younger consumers.

It would be nice to have some data informing us whether the process we're watching is gradual or sudden – and help us identify what made it change.

Meanwhile, what do you think will be the tipping point that makes advertisers seek Boomers online?


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