Customer Research: Getting Social with Gen X - The MSR Group

If your company is like most, someone in the marketing department (or your ad agency) is telling you that having a strong presence on social media is a must. It’s the future. Everyone is doing it. We need a social media budget. Before you make a significant ad spend, researching the media usage of your customers might shift your focus.
While it’s true Millennials and Gen Zs report getting most of their news and information from social media sites, some businesses, and specifically financial institutions, need not put a significant budget into these channels just yet. At least not if your goal is to reach one of the wealthiest and financial-resource needy segments of today’s population: Generation X.
For the purpose of this post, we are using the Pew Research Center’s definition of Generation X as individuals born between 1965 and 1980. That means Gen Xers are between 39 and 54-years-old today.
According to American Express, Gen X has more spending power than any other generation with 29% of estimated net worth dollars and 31% of total income dollars. Yes, that generation once referred to as ‘slackers’ has finally come into its own. And not just personally, as senior-level employees in today’s companies, Gen Xers also are key decision makers when it comes to how and where businesses spend (and save) their money.
A report conducted by Deloitte earlier this year, showed that net wealth in the United States is projected to grow to $120 trillion by 2030. Compared with other age groups, it is Gen X that will experience the greatest increase in share of national wealth through this period.

And you probably won’t reach them through social media.

Two primary ways of reaching an audience through social media channels are having ‘followers’ and using paid advertising. Not all companies have an equal chance of being followed–financial institutions in particular. In a recent study conducted by the MSR Group, nearly 70% of the 3,000 adults surveyed said they do not follow any companies on social media sites. This includes over half of Gen X respondents, and of those who DO follow companies, fewer than half said they would follow their primary bank.
So is the answer paid advertising on social media? Probably not. In traditional Gen X-style, most members of this ad-weary and jaded generation believe there is already too much advertising on the social media platforms they use.1

How do you reach them?

Direct mail, email and conventional media are still very much a part of the Gen Xer’s life. They spend nearly the same amount of time viewing traditional media like live TV and newspapers as they do accessing information using apps and web.2 While it shouldn’t be a primary line item in your budget, social media channels still have a place as part of the media mix..
Facebook is by far the most popular social platform used by Gen X. In fact, 90% report regularly using the app. But it’s how they use Facebook that should guide your advertising. For members of this generation, Facebook is more about relationships than business. It’s a personal space and taking the time to develop personalized ads can boost your brand’s favorability and purchase intent among this population.3
A large percentage of Gen Xers are now financially supporting either an elderly parent,an adult child, or both. They’re sophisticated, educated and coming into their own in the business world. Fifty-five percent of today’s start-up companies were founded by Gen X. Intelligent, succinct advertising that celebrates their success, conveys empathy for their unique experiences and implies respect for their time will resonate.

What do they need?

Given their broad financial responsibilities, it is no surprise that the financial product needs of Gen X are diverse. Despite being among the wealthiest members of society (the median financial assets of Gen X households nearly doubled from 2010 to 2016), Gen X holds the most debt of any other generation.
According to the Pew Charitable Trust’s Survey of American Family Finances, 56% of Gen Xers hold mortgage debt, 43% have car loans, and more than a quarter (26%) still owe on their own student loans. Add to this their responsibilities for parents and children and it becomes clear why many are looking for practical advice on how to retain their wealth for retirement.
Financial institutions have a lot to gain both from understanding the broad needs of this unique population and marketing personalized services to them. For more information on how your company can better understand the needs of its customers,
1 September 2018 survey from Morning Consult
2 Neilsen Total Audience Report Q3 2018
3 Yahoo and IPG Media survey, November 2014