Marketing to different generations online

Have you ever watched a movie or show where the teenage dialogue was clearly written by a 40-year-old? Whether it be the extreme overuse of sometimes dead lingo, or just the obvious disconnect of the words coming out of a 14-year-old’s mouth, the overall point is lost.

When writing to market a product or service to anyone of any age, I like to keep this analogy in mind because I am a 28-year-old woman – a millennial (don’t roll your eyes). I can’t and won’t pretend to know the “hip lingo” of the generation below me. I simply can’t speak to every generation as effectively as my own. But that doesn’t necessarily mean you need to start hiring people born in 2007.

Over 70% of the North American population with internet access also has an active social media account. Social media is no longer just about keeping in touch with friends and family – it has transformed into a space where users connect with brands and influencers, conduct research, purchase products, and share content, opinion, and political agenda.

Depending on user age, relationships and engagement with social media can vary dramatically. Social media platforms hold very different values depending on when users were first exposed to it, which also means the information it delivers to said user holds an incredibly different value.

Once you’ve established who your target market is, the imperative next step is to establish where and how to appeal to them (and ensure that you don’t lose them when you do.)

Baby Boomers

The Baby Boomer generation (1946-1964) is (for the most part) the oldest and most conservative generation on social media. They didn’t have access to social media until they were already well into building their careers. They tend to be more reluctant to fully embrace social media platforms the same way as younger generations. This is especially true when it comes to mixing personal and professional lives.

When marketing to this generation on social media, it is important to remember they have a clear work/life divide. They value respect, authority, and expertise, and they prefer content that is factual and (what they perceive to be) respectful.

To appeal to Baby Boomers, utilize platforms like Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn, and create content that is informative, educational, and respectful. You can also showcase your brand’s credibility and reputation and provide clear and easy instructions and support.

Gen X

Generation X (1965-1979) now holds most business leadership positions, and despite their small total size relative to the entire population, their purchasing power now accounts for 31% of the total North American income.

This generation was quick to adopt social media, but unlike us Millennials, they did not inherit the ‘selfie culture’ we seem to love so much. Gen X does not like to broadcast their personal life. In fact, only 24% have actually shared on social media. Like Baby Boomers, they like to spend time connecting with friends and searching for information.

Generation X is the generation of counterculture. They value their independence and like to do their research before making purchases, with 68% making their buying decisions based on online reviews. They use social media to compare and buy products and services, and they are receptive to ads and offers. They appreciate convenience, trust, and value, and they prefer content that is clear, concise, and compelling.

To appeal to Gen X, stick to platforms like Facebook, LinkedIn, and Pinterest to highlight your brand benefits and features, provide incentives, discounts, and guarantees, and create content that is informative, persuasive, and actionable.


Millennials (1980-1996) were the first generation to access social media and adopt it as their main form of communication. Because of early adoption, social media is relevant to both their personal and professional lives. Millennials were also the first generation to learn the pitfalls of “oversharing” and that the internet is written in ink, not pencil.

Millennials are described as optimistic, collaborative, digital pioneers, who unlike previous generations have no issue putting their personal and professional lives on public display. They are heavily influenced by what they see on their preferred social media platforms. 72% have reported buying products based on Instagram posts and 84% said they’ve been influenced to make a purchase based on user generated content.

Millennials are much less trusting of big brands and traditional advertising. They tend to believe what their peers say and turn to social media to seek validation. Marketing to Millennials is all about engaging with them on their level. They prefer content from those in their network and look at social media as a primary form of inspiration, remaining savvy and selective about the content they consume and create.

They value quality, credibility, and personalization. To appeal to Millennials, use platforms like Instagram, TikTok, and YouTube, and create content that is tailored to their needs and goals. You can also showcase your brand values and stories, and leverage reviews and testimonials.

Gen Z

And finally, Gen Z (1996-2021) are largely considered the future of the global economy. As of 2020, this generation is the largest group of consumers worldwide and have never known a world without social media.

Social media is their primary form of media and entertainment. This generation is more likely to turn to YouTube or TikTok on their mobile device than the television, with 44% checking their social profiles at least hourly. Many Gen Zs have built large followings on platforms like TikTok and Instagram, generating almost 100% of their income using self-made content.

As digital natives, they have learned from past generations and are more careful when it comes to posting and privacy. When targeting Gen Z, remember they value authenticity, creativity, and social causes, and they prefer short, visual, and interactive content. Use platforms like TikTok, YouTube, and Instagram, employing content that is fun, engaging, and relevant to their interests and values. Encourage user-generated content, feedback, and collaboration, and show your brand’s personality.

Gen Z is passionate about social justice issues, environmental sustainability, and mental health awareness, so by incorporating these topics into a content strategy in a genuine and informative way, brands can appeal to their values and build more meaningful relationships with this generation. They prioritize corporate and personal authenticity and are unafraid to point out perceived injustice and inequality. Brands need to ensure that conversations are rooted in purpose and are truly meaningful to maintain interest and trust.

Not everyone can be neatly classified into a single category based solely on their age. However, by understanding the differences between generations and targeting your core audience’s values is a proven strategy to achieve your brand’s full marketing potential.

As I’ve said before, your HVAC company likely doesn’t need to be on TikTok to reach your target audience (seriously, in this economy, name a Millennial or Gen Z with a mortgage… I’ll wait…)

Contact M
Contact M