Posted in on March 19, 2013

War of the Worlds? Email vs Social Media Marketing for Targeting Older People

Recently Creating Results has spoken about the benefits of an integrated email and social media strategy at a variety of settings, including the LeadingAge annual meeting, International Conference on Active Aging, the Planned Giving Group of New England, and the International Builder Show.  Some audience members express concern with how to effectively use each avenue to reach mature consumers, others worry about how to avoid fatiguing followers and yet others aren’t sure how to establish each avenue independently.

Some marketing experts will tell you to never, under any circumstance should you promote the same messages within these two channels. CS Penn cites cannibalizing your list and fatiguing your followers as risks of cross promoting social and email.

I love CS Penn and recommend you subscribe to his blog (if you don’t already). But I have to say that I disagree to an extent. Below we’ve identified the pros and cons of running a successful email and social media marketing program that targets Boomers and Seniors, and how you can maximize both.


According to Penn, “if you share a newsletter socially, meaning that it’s viewable on the web from social media posts, does that then mean that your most engaged fans (who follow you, Like your Facebook page, etc.) will read straight from social and not open the email?”

PRO:  Mature consumers are flocking to both avenues, so why not leverage to reach a larger audience.Email by Age Group from Pew Research

According to Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project, 52% of Internet Users aged 50-64 are using social networking sites, as are 32% of 65+ers online.  Pew’s 2012 Generations Report found that 90% of online Boomers and and 86% of online Seniors use email.

How To Maximize

Many marketers will call out social media efforts within email by incorporating icons and links within their messaging to their social avenues.  While this is a good start, you need to take it further to be successful.

1.    Distinguish Yourself:
Formulate a concrete email strategy and a concrete social strategy that clearly identify the benefits to each.  And (most importantly) the lion share of those benefits needs to be DIFFERENT.  For example, a benefit of email sign up could be special event invitations and a benefit exclusive to social media channels could include behind the scenes tour/images.

Boomers and seniors especially can be sensitive to perceived privacy issues from both avenues. Be sure you are as clear as possible when describing the benefits of both email and social, and let them know you won’t sell their information.

2.    Know the Differences:
The nature of the engagement through these two channels is inherently different. Social media is a more immediate, one-on-one communication channel (I can respond to an engagement in real time, as can other followers). Email is a one-way communication with opportunities to engage through other portals. It requires a stronger call to action than social.

Yes, if you’re posting the same info all the time on both avenues it doesn’t make sense to share your emails in the social world.  Both channels are comprised of followers who want exclusive content.  That needs to be a chief priority when creating content for either avenue.  If you do this you can absolutely cross promote the two.

3. Email and Social Play Nice:
Both email and social media have great capabilities for allowing brand enthusiasts to spread the word through icons and forward to a friend tools …  In other words email can grow your social base and social can grow your email list so be sure to use them accordingly.  All emails should include links to your social media and many Email Service Providers (ESPs) provide ways to integrate an email sign up form right within your Facebook page.

Do your email and social strategies share nicely?  Let us know how you approach to integrating these two marketing avenues.


What Older People Do Online-Infographic

Social Media and Marketing to Boomers, Seniors

Facebook, Internet Users More Similar to Offline Population Ages Than Ever


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