The rapid onset of COVID-19 had an immediate and obvious impact on how people conduct their day-to-day lives. For TrueVoice, this change presented as an opportunity to re-evaluate the health behavior of those at greatest risk, seniors. Our discoveries, from actively tracking and analyzing narratives from more than 15 million seniors online, have confirmed the suspicions of many: everything is changing. Available marketing channels to reach this audience are shrinking, while digital adoption is accelerating at an astounding pace.
More importantly, what seniors care about, what they want, and where they are online, has dramatically shifted in just a few short months. Increased isolation has fueled seniors’ online activity. Social media usage jumped 37%, as did references to their use of digital channels, including email, Facebook messenger, and What’s App. The increase in online activity is predictable, but what’s surprising are the new ways seniors are behaving online. These new behaviors mean that marketers will need to employ new approaches and strategies to navigate this “new normal” and deliver valued content and communications to address seniors’ evolving needs.
1. Social media usage. Increased activity aside, there is a fundamental change in how seniors are using social media. Social networks have shifted from primarily entertainment sources to become a primary channel for maintaining relationships and making personal connections. Seeking companionship and shared experiences, seniors are spending more time engaging with other seniors online, further deepening the influence that peer opinion and experience has on decision making.
2. Community. Increased peer influence has driven more community-oriented activity from seniors, fueling a nearly 22% increase in participation on online group channels that include Facebook groups, interest–specific subreddits, and forums. As seniors turn to niche and specialty channels for trusted advice, these digital tribes are quickly becoming a primary source of health information, and the new battleground for companies serving seniors.
3. Value content. Seniors’ online interests are shifting to “value” topics that includes health, wellness, and money. However, the immense content clutter around these subjects makes finding credible, relevant information challenging, placing increased importance for companies to make sure they can be found when seniors are searching.
4. Trust & misinformation. The prominence and sharing of inaccurate or misleading content online has risen sharply since the onset of COVID-19. In fact, researchers recently found that nearly half of the Twitter accounts posting about coronavirus are likely bots. As a result, seniors are becoming hyper sensitive to content sources, making health information from well-established authorities and partners they trust increasingly important and sought after.
5. Increasing risk. A growing number of internet, email and phone scams targeting vulnerable seniors have been reported, making seniors even more sensitive to safety and credibility. For companies seeking to communicate with seniors, clear identification, authentication and personalization will be the difference between being read and being junked.
6. Greater expectations. From dedicated retail hours to senior-specific services and discounts, seniors appreciate the attention and accommodations being afforded to them during the crisis. Companies seeking to serve seniors post pandemic need to consider continuing or expanding senior programs or risk losing them to competitors that offer the dedicated services they have come to expect.
These shifts brought on by COVID-19 promise to forever change the behavior of seniors, during and far beyond the current crisis. Healthcare marketers’ success will be dependent on rethinking and redefining valued content creation and communication placement that address seniors’ evolving needs and their “new normal”…right now.