The Underserved Boomer Generation

Article:  Why Boomers Won’t Release Their Grip on Technology

A few weeks back, our class assignment involved commenting on the GQ article featuring “digital natives” who were developing new and innovative social media apps. Interestingly, one of the articles that appeared on my radar this week, when preparing this blogpost, showcased the Baby Boomer generation (those born between 1946 & 1964) and its impact on technology and social media.

Dr. Karen Riggs, a self-disclosed Boomer and a professor of media studies at Ohio University, recently authored a book which focuses on the Boomers and their adoption of technology.  Riggs notes that most Boomers are technologically adapt, having been introduced to personal technology in the workplace in their 30s and 40s.  They have worked with the earlier technologies (e.g. Windows 95 and Palm Pilots) during their careers, and therefore are likely to also “get” today’s technology.

In fact, the article describes Boomers as discriminating early adopters of technology, who are more likely to ultimately embrace core technologies, such as Facebook and texting, than more cutting edge products like FourSquare.

Finally, the author emphasized that her generation will continue to need to be heard, and is willing to do so in a fragmented way.  Boomers may still communicate with their elders on a traditional personal level, but then also embrace the newer social technologies to communicate with their children and grandchildren. 

With significant spending power and this penchant for communicating, the impact of this “digital immigrant” generation on future social media endeavours may still be largely underexplored. 

As a Boomer myself, I would be interested a dialogue on the following questions:

  • How could some of today’s newer social media technologies be retooled to take advantage of the underserved Boomer market? 
  • What opportunities exist for Gen X and Millennial entrepreneurs to “reach backward” and tap into an underserved need for their parents’ generation, instead of trying to discover the newest trend for their generation(s)?

8 thoughts on “The Underserved Boomer Generation

  1. I think the biggest opportunity and easiest way to reach the Boomer market is through their children. A personal example of this is the usage habits of some boomer generation people who I work with. The social media and other technologies that they have adopted usual include ways to keep in touch and communicate with their kids. They may have started using Facebook to stay in touch with a child who just went to college, but once they have signed up for this new technology, they are more likely to branch out and connect with their friends. Along the same lines, a few of these people use Face Time on their iPhone’s to keep in touch with their kids, and generally they are all very impressed and excited about this technology. My boss even told us the other day how his daughter was feeling home sick as a freshman at college, so they set up an empty seat at the dinner table, turned on a laptop with a web cam, and then proceeded to have a “family” dinner with their daughter eating from her dorm room and the rest of the family eating at their house.

    This seems like a very solid way for entrepreneurs to get a foot hold in the boomer generation. Once they are able to gain a user base of boomers who are initially attracted to a product to keep in touch with their kids, they will have the opportunity to have the boomers start to branch out and use the product for other purposes. Facebook is a great current example of this, but other opportunities may be out there to connect parents with children. For me, this seems like the best bet to attract large amount of boomer generation to new social media technologies.

  2. After reading this article, I immediately thought of the Google commercials which feature a dad at home communicating with his daughter at college via webcam. I agree with the comment above, and feel that more and more companies will start to feature older generations using technology in order to communicate with their friends and family throughout the world.

  3. I think social media designers should take boomers’ need into account. Figuring out what kind of features boomers would like to use and making those apps user-friendly for boomers is needed.And I think the social media for boomer should focus on workplace because boomers don’t use social media a lot in their spare time. Besides, designers need to provide boomers the instruction about how to use their apps on their social media. Since most boomers are not very tech-savvy, having a sort of instruction help them adapt to the new technology easily.

    • I don’t believe that the article implied that most Boomers are very tech-savvy. Still, I would agree that that generation has gotten used to having accompanying instructions over the years.

      Conversely, current “digital natives” are very used to having access to very limited instructions, and therefore, has adapted their approach to experimentation and discovery.

  4. I don’t think that boomers are anti-social. I agree with a lot of the comments here. It seems like the social side of things is more about family. If you ride any commuter train you will see a large percentage of boomers using ipads. At this point it seems like many of them use it to avoid lugging a laptop, answer e-mails, and keep up on news. I think LinkedIn is probably the closest thing to being seriously active on social media.

    I know when we talk about the network effect having a huge network makes you more effective but I don’t put LinkedIn in the same conversation as other social networks. It’s big, it’s active, but I think the people that really want to be considered though leaders or influencers are active. I think what we are talking about is getting the boomers into the fun side of things. I think many of them are past this point where they are going to try to be the first poster on a blog or LOL at a video. This doesn’t sound like my Mom or Dad at least.

  5. As mentioned by others above, social designers do need to continue to cater to the needs of boomers and others that can be considered digital immigrants. Ideas such as Pinterest, which caters to the interests and hobbies of the individual user, are on the right track, however even Pinterest (avg. user age between 35-44) has yet to tap into the Baby Boomer generation.
    But one also has to consider whether it is financially sensible to focus on designing sites for the baby boomers when they can gain an even larger audience much more quickly by catering to digital natives. The younger generation spends much more time online and is still much more willing to try new social sites and apps. Considering this, and also considering long term growth, it may make more sense for social companies to continue to focus their resources and time on designing sites catered to the younger generations.

  6. I definitely agree with the above. I can relate to this article as my parents use social media, they first started using MySpace and now Facebook. They are always posting and commenting on Facebook and many of their friends as well but there aren’t many other social media applications they can use that would be age appropriate. As new technology continues to develop the need to cater to the boomers will increase as well.

  7. Baby Boomers may not be the most tech savy but they certainly want to be in the know. Between my parents & my in-laws, they have ipads, iphones, kindle, other tablets. The biggest problem is that they don’t fully use any of these forms of technology to its fullest degree and so they begin to get bored. I think that these companies can target this generation & show them how they can best use it. Someone above mentioned facetime- for a grandparent that doesn’t live closeby- that’s an amazing technology. When I showed my mom- she had no idea this could be done on her ipad.

    In the digital world, my mom joined Facebook not long ago and at first she’s super excited but now she’s getting bored. This is mostly due because a lot of her friends aren’t on it so it’s not nearly as interesting when there’s not many updates on her newsfeed or photos to look at.This is where the network affect for her core group plays a big part. She would be a lot more engaged if she had a larger group of friends. To keep her busy though, I started having her like brands so she has more things coming up on her newsfeed.

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