Posted in on October 24, 2017

Boo! What scares seniors about digital marketing?

Next week is Halloween.

In many places, there will be no costumed children going door-to-door for sweets. Instead they’ll hit malls, church parking lot “trunk or treat” events, or another alternative. Like the candy sold in stores, Halloween has been shrunk down and packaged for our safety.

While Halloween may no longer be a night of frights, it turns out that seniors do have some valid fears … about digital marketing!

Our Social, Silver Surfers research revealed two areas that spook the very consumers we hope to enchant on our websites.


Privacy and Security – Real Fears, Real Challenges for Digital Marketing

Especially when it comes to social media, many mature consumers have serious concerns about cyber security, identity theft, personal and physical security.

  • 27% of respondents who have tried and then quit social media cite Security / Privacy as the reason.
  • 16% of those who have never tried social media say More Privacy would convince them to. (It’s important to note, however, that 40% of these silver surfers say nothing could ever make them join an online social network.)
  • 47% of those who are active on social media say they have Security / Privacy Concerns. The infographic below shows how this varies by social network (the darkest blue bar; click on the image to enlarge).

Infographic - what older Facebook, Pinterest, LinkedIn, Twitter users like most/least about social networking. Creating Results, "Social, Silver Surfers"

This attitude isn’t limited to older older adults, either. The 40-54 year olds Creating Results surveyed were most likely to express this fear.

Social, Silver Surfers respondents told us they worried about having their identities stolen, their online financial data compromised, even their offline physical safety threatened. As one Baby Boomer put it,

“Too many people are sharing their opinions and I think that’s dangerous. I think that if you have an opinion and people disagree with it, you’re putting yourself into a bad spot.”

If consumers are afraid, they’re unlikely to respond positively to digital marketing, no matter how clever the Facebook campaign or compelling the website offer.

What can those marketing to older adults online do? Here are some 50+ marketing tips from our new e-book.

50+ Marketing Insights into Action:

  1. Reassure website visitors of their privacy, confirming their email addresses will never be shared, rented or sold. State this in simple, clear terms throughout your site and link to a more detailed privacy policy.
  2. If you have a blog, allow people the option of posting anonymously – an email address is required for comments, but only the administrator sees it. Other commenters can only see the name of the poster. Encourage pseudonyms for additional comfort and to promote community.
  3. On social platforms, appoint a highly-visible moderator who ensures a safe and fun space for engagement.


Sign Ups that Turn Off

Of those surveyed for this most recent edition, roughly seven in 10 respondents say that Required Sign-Up is a website “Pet Peeve.”

This includes those who are in the position of influencing older adults with new homes purchases are frustrated. Nearly nine in 10 Caregivers cited Required Sign-Up as a Peeve.

Your GenX, Baby Boomer and senior targets are not just complaining about sign-up. The online behavior of these valuable consumers reveals more about their feelings.

Statistics / infographics - recent movers who dislike online forms, % who have filled out an online request for information - Social, Silver Surfers

In our 2013 study, 56% of mature Movers had filled out an online Request for Information Form. That percentage dropped to 22% in this most recent edition.

Why? Forms don’t just frustrate respondents, they seem to frighten them.

  • Respondents frequently told us they were unpleasantly surprised to be put on a mailing list following a one-time request. That’s a terrible trick!
  • The design of many forms is not senior-friendly. Struggles with eyesight, dexterity and interface fatigue all increase the likelihood of mistakes. Anticipating challenges and mistakes leads to decreased desire to even try filling out a form.
  • As with social, 40+ers are worried about privacy and security. A greater percentage of all respondents have expressed this worry with each edition of Social, Silver Surfers.

Marketing continuing care retirement communities, assisted living or 55+ housing? Know that three-quarters of Movers and Move Helpers report form fears.

Digital Marketing Research: Concerned re security of online forms - by age; by survey year; caregivers, movers. Social, Silver Surfers.

50+ Marketing Insights into Action:

  1. Before you greedily reach your hand out for more contact information treats, think … is this form necessary? Not every piece of content on your site should be behind a lead gate.
  2. When a form is called for, address fears head on. Again, simple language that tells how their information is going to be protected; links to privacy policies.
  3. Don’t pull a switcheroo. Nothing worse than being given a beautifully-wrapped bag and discovering erasers or a toothbrush instead of true treat on Halloween. Make it clear on the form if the web visitor is signing up for a one-time communication or an ongoing series – and then honor the opt-in or opt-out choices made.

Fears about forms and privacy / security don’t have to ruin Halloween (or any other selling season) for your organization. By applying the tips above you can build trust and your lead list.


Did this Social, Silver Surfers data about what scares seniors startle you? What frightens you about digital marketing to seniors? Please share your thoughts in the comments section. We promise to respect and safeguard your privacy – and to keep the 50+ marketing treats flowing!

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