Enough About Millennials! You Can Use Influencer Marketing to Target Older Audiences, Too.

You may be surprised at how digitally savvy boomers and Gen-Xers really are.

learn more about Ted Dhanik

By Ted Dhanik

Ezra Bailey | Getty Images

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

"If you find yourself dumbfounded by the notion that 21-year-old Logan Paul could become a millionaire with goofy online videos like this, then you're probably not a millennial," correspondent Bill Whitaker said last fall during an edition of 60 Minutes. During the segment that followed, Whitaker explained the social media influencer phenomenon to a viewership that may know little-to-nothing about it.

Related: 5 Reasons Why You Need to Take Advantage of Influencer Marketing

Influencer marketing -- if you're one of those viewers -- is seen as a way, maybe even the way, to connect with Gen Y and millennials, the age groups most likely to watch a snap or, back before it bit the dust, Vine. In 2016, 86 percent of marketers used influencer marketing, according to a study by Linquia. And that's all very well.

But Gen Y and millennials are only a fraction of the potential "influencer" population. As influencer marketing becomes more mainstream, in fact, smart advertisers will examine how they can use the tactic to connect with people of all ages, 60 Minutes fans included.

The reason: The crux of influencer marketing isn't novel. It stems from the notion that focusing on a small number of respected, trusted and popular individuals is easier and more cost effective than connecting with every prospect individually. Advertisers can work to persuade these key buyers organically, or they can pay them for their help.

Think of testimonials and celebrity endorsements, marketing staples that certainly have credence with older audiences.

Social media has actually given influencer marketing new legs because it's become easier to identify people of influence. Social media also makes it easier for people to become influencers in the first place, by creating their own distribution networks -- their own personal deluge of social media followers.

In the type of influencer marketing Whitaker described in his piece, influencers are often people whose persuasion power was created by digital media. They didn't have name recognition before they started that YouTube channel of theirs. Nor are they the people you would use to connect with Gen X-ers and Baby Boomers. But that doesn't mean influencer marketing, or at least elements of it, can't be used effectively for those groups.

1. Find the right influencer.

An influencer's potential is defined by your customers' perceptions. So, identify influencers who are relevant to your audience, and trusted by them. Use everything you already know about your target buyer to inform these personas. What do they value? Who embodies these values? And, is your target audience already connecting to these people via digital channels?

Gen X-ers and baby boomers may be less impressed by this new breed of digital influencers than the younger crowed, so, to attract them, consider a more traditional influencer, i.e., a celebrity. That's one option, but it can get costly. Another simpler, more grassroots way to start is to check out your clients' digital profiles and map out whom they follow and what they share.

Related: 8 Do's and Don'ts of Influencer Marketing

Your research might lead you to a "micro" influencer (someone with a smaller, often more niche distribution); at the very least, the market research will help you better understand your customers.

You should also think beyond just people. Marketers can also forge partnerships with organizations to create meaningful content and distribute it in effective ways. For example, Mediaplanet, a global content-marketing company, partners with non-profits to create editorial for its awareness campaigns. For a recent campaign about women and girls in STEM, the company collaborated with STEMConnector, a consortium of companies, non-profits and professional societies.

Related: How to Create a Successful Influencer Marketing Campaign

2. Take a hard look at Facebook.

The research is in. Older generations are online and on social media. Seventy-one percent of adults who are digitally active use Facebook, and usage among seniors continues to increase, according to Pew Research Center's findings. Seventy-three percent of adults ages 30 to 49, 63 percent of adults ages 50 to 64 and 56 percent of people 65 and older use Facebook.

DMN3 polled baby boomers and seniors (defined as ages 50 to 82) to better understand their social media usage and discovered that 91 percent of respondents used at least one network, with Facebook topping the list.

According to another study, this time one conducted by Fractl, baby boomers are 19 percent more likely to share content than other generations. When assessing content and distribution partners, consider boomers' unique needs and interests. There are a host of pages specifically catering to this age group, including AARP, Everything Zoomer and Fab Over Fifty.

Baby boomers and Gen-Xers use other networks, too, so research your target buyers. For example, Gen X-ers' usage of Twitter is growing quickly and is expected to hit almost 20 percent in 2017, according to eMarketer.

3. Don't oversimplify.

Digital marketing and its related data help companies understand their customers better than ever before. Remember, age really is just a number, a way to segment prospects, but not the only way. Not every baby boomer or Gen X buyer is the same. Think about additional ways to categorize your audience, such as where they might be in their purchasing journey or the value proposition that matters most to them.

Then think about how this segmentation could inform your content or distribution strategy. It might mean working with an influencer partner on different sets of content, or even partnering with a few different people or groups to drive better results.

4. Measure, refine, measure again

A great thing about digital marketing is that you can experiment and instantly evaluate at least some of the effects of your campaign. Test new content and partnerships, measure the results and refine as needed. Go into your campaign with clear goals and an understanding of your benchmarks, i.e., how your current advertising performs, social media engagement rates, web traffic KPIs, etc., so you can gauge your success.

Influencer marketing is about more than Snapchat and Instagram. Brands can use it to reach older audiences. It might even prove more effective among this demographic since it is a less saturated space than the crowded field of influencer marketing to young folks.

Related: 8 Tips to Create a Successful Influencer Marketing Campaign

If you're a brand for whom influencer marketing to older consumers makes sense, know that your efforts will take research and common sense, along with some trial-and-error, measurement and analysis. But you just might be surprised at how digitally savvy those 60 Minutes viewers really are.

Ted Dhanik

CEO of engage:BDR

A co-founder of integrated-media advertising company engage:BDR in Los Angeles, Ted Dhanik serves as president and CEO overseeing strategic marketing, sales and business development, client relationship management and content acquisition. Previously, he served as vice president of strategic marketing at MySpace. 

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