More and more classes are being held to train senior citizens how to use online tools like Facebook and Twitter. Beyond email, seniors are searching on Google, browsing on Facebook, and watching videos on YouTube. But despite becoming increasingly savvy online, this group is often overlooked by social media marketers.

Not only does this demographic have a higher net worth than its younger counterpart, but they’re also one of the fastest growing demographics on social networks. There are currently 39 million people aged 65 and older using Facebook, Twitter, and Skype, so why aren’t more marketers leveraging these connections?

Here are some tips for brands looking to break into this increasingly important demographic.

Establish Trust and Credibility

A standard approach might not always be the most effective. While a cleverly disguised sales grab might attract a younger audience, seniors tend to be more skeptical and prefer working with someone who understands their needs. Establishing trust and credibility should be your top priority when targeting an older audience. This means that you might need to invest more energy and resources into developing a strategy that aligns with their needs.

Introduce your brand before trying to make a sale, and get to know your customers as well as their needs. Show them that you both have the same goals in mind. For example, pharmaceutical brands have moved away from pushing drugs toward a stronger focus on disease education and tips for achieving a healthy lifestyle.

For healthcare brands, Twitter is the perfect platform to test this out on. According to Forbes, seniors find it an easily accessible resource for following streams of information, like news sources and health information.

Tailor Your Approach

Senior citizens are turning to social media for many of the same reasons as younger demographics do. A majority (40 percent) are turning to social networks to connect with family and friends, 20 percent log on for social gaming, and 10 percent are looking for contests and games. But while their motivations are similar, there are some slight differences in the type of content seniors consume.

Research has shown that this demographic prefers images and stories over promotional services. Social platforms seem to be embracing visual content more these days which should help your approach. However, brands with existing social media profiles might consider creating separate accounts for this specific demographic so you can cater your content more strategically.

Additionally, avoid using complicated or technical jargon. Complex and wordy sentences will turn seniors off. Your marketing materials should be clean and streamlined using a standard font with plenty of white space. And make sure that your brand messaging and visuals are consistent across platforms and materials to avoid confusion later on.

Learn From These Brands

With more than 40 million members, the AARP is one of the largest service providers for people over 50. The company found that the top four online activities for this demographic are Google, Facebook, Yahoo, and YouTube, and has tailored its social media accordingly. The content on the AARP’s Twitter, Facebook, and YouTube profiles is targeted directly to seniors with posts often referring to members’ grandchildren or offering helpful tips for staying healthy.

Merrill Gardens, one of the leading assisted living homes in America, has more than 7,000 residents among its 50-plus communities. The company uses social media to connect with both residents through Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram. These platforms are used to keep residents involved with community events. Its social media accounts are also used for lead generation among adult children who are research homes for their parents online.

When creating a social strategy specifically for senior citizens, remember that the same major principals apply: tailor your message, engage regularly, and listen carefully. Most important, invest resources in demographic assessments — don’t target seniors on platforms they’re not using.

[Image credit: klndonnelly, Lena Vasiljeva]