A refined approach could appeal to the financially savvy over-50s, says Gordon McCreadie, sales and marketing director of If Only

In times gone by, many characters would tell you that life begins at 40. Now, life begins at 140 characters.

Although most conceptions have some basis in reality, the notion that social media is only for the younger generation simply isn’t true. As the population lives longer, so are they embracing technology, and nowhere is this more evident than on social media.

Social networks are now part and parcel of our daily life, used by an increasingly varied demographic. Is there now an opportunity to target a new breed of holidaymaker, a group who have historically been ignored? Should travel professionals put less focus on millennials and concentrate more on attracting ‘social seniors’?

Senior trends

The state pension age may be higher than it’s ever been, but the average retirement age is the lowest since 1950. With healthcare improvements, technological advances and take-up of private pension schemes at an all-time high, people are enjoying retirement more than at any other time in history. Flexibility is king with this demographic, with few restrictions on travel dates, no children to accommodate and a confidence in knowing what they want, which comes with experience. There’s a real case for refining our approach to appeal to the thrifty over-50s online.

I read a recent article by digital marketing specialist Target Internet that looked at how different age groups interact with social media and what appeals to each. It suggested that, unlike the under-35s, the over-50s are nearly three times as likely to use social media to network and engage in conversation, and don’t react to filtered photos and videos. Their preference isn’t opinion-forming articles (like the under-25s) but conversation and discussion. Is this a platform that’s being missed by the travel industry? It may be something as simple as a forum or dedicated Facebook group devoted to destination pieces, history or culture that becomes key to engaging this market sector.

Silver surge

In another recent report, by Ofcom, the number of over-65s using social media is said to have more than doubled in the past year, with Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook all seeing massively increased usage.

This new wave of Instagramming grannies and Pinterest pensioners may use the same apps as younger users, but the content they share is entirely different, with much more emphasis on responsible trade, families and experiences. There is also a real appetite to learn about a destination’s history, as opposed to what’s new.

Studies by CBS, Forbes and The Independent suggest that while retirees aren’t spending as much money with the frequency they once did, they spend more on big-ticket items such as technology and holidays. Savvy seniors are prepared to be more frugal, pushing the boat out only on things they’re passionate about, so generic marketing is unlikely to appeal to them.

As social media evolves, so must we. It’s no longer enough to just have a presence online: we must also have a purpose and a strategy. So why not target a group growing quicker than any other – our social seniors!