What Makes People Buy from a Brand They Follow on Social Media?

US millennials, Gen Xers and baby boomers respond differently

Author: Alison McCarthy

February 28, 2017

Seven in 10 US internet users will use social media regularly in 2017, according to eMarketer’s latest forecast. However, the ways in which social media users connect with friends, family members—and, of course, brands—vary greatly depending on the user’s age.

A January 2017 survey from Sprout Social, which polled 1,000 US millennial, Gen Xer and baby boomer internet users, compared how the three generations use social to follow brands.

The survey found millennials and Gen Xers are twice as likely as baby boomers to follow a brand on social media. About half of respondents in each group reported doing so, compared with 24.5% of baby boomers.

The three generations also follow brands for different reasons. Sprout found that millennials tend to follow for entertainment and information, while Xers do so for contests and deals. Meanwhile, boomers seek out brands for deals and information.

Luckily for marketers, there’s a good chance that if someone is following a brand on social media, they’ll be making a purchase—no matter what their age. Around 70% of Gen Xers, 60% of millennials and 51% of baby boomers said they’d be likely to purchase something from a brand they follow on a social media platform.

That percentage grows even larger when a consumer has a positive interaction with a brand on social media. According to Sprout, when this happens, “willingness to purchase increased by 14% across all age groups.”

While many consumers are happy to follow brands on social media, they’re often just as quick to unfollow.

Sprout found that millennials, Xers and boomers had different reasons for doing so. Millennials were most likely to unfollow a brand based on a bad experience or annoying marketing, while Gen Xers were much more likely than their older and younger counterparts to unfollow if a brand offended them. Baby boomers had little patience for spam.