Throughout my 20 year career in financial services, I have had the opportunity to attend the IRI Marketing Summit several times. First, as a Marketing Director for an insurance company, back when the IRI (Insured Retirement Institute) was NAVA, the National Association for Variable Annuities. Later, as an Advertising Executive for a B2B Publisher in the industry, and just last week, as an Account Director for Primacy. Whatever the purpose of my attendance, my goal was always to learn and better understand the challenges of the retirement industry; trying to glean what I could about both consumer and advisor behavior. It is always interesting to see how a keynote speaker, who is on the conference circuit, delivering the same presentation to audiences from a variety of industries, tries to make their point fit for financial services. You can’t just insert “industry” here. Retirement planning is a unique, highly-regulated industry, with consumers who are untrusting and typical consumer marketing does not apply when addressing money matters. At the 2014 conference, one keynote speaker stood out to me, in terms of delivering real, tangible information that would help inform my work as a marketer. Cam Marston, President of Generational Insights, presented “How to Thrive in a Dynamic Marketplace”. His presentation was chock full of demographic nuggets that had many audience members nodding in agreement, perhaps recognizing themselves or someone they knew in the categorization of Boomer, Gen X and Millennial consumers. My personal favorite was the line, “Beware the Gen X woman, she will eat you alive”; a comment made referencing their sponge-like retention of information and their “ability” to form very definite opinions, and then share them with everyone she knows. As an influencer, buying for herself, her kids and her spouse, “She can make you or break you.” Cue the nodding head of agreement. While typical consumer marketing does not apply when discussing money matters, you may be able to think differently when creating a social media strategy. With social media, you’re probably not extolling the virtues of a Guaranteed Minimum Income Benefit, but rather creating a relationship and establishing a community. With so many financial services companies creating or updating their social media strategies, you absolutely can create content that resonates with the generation it’s targeting. Given the opportunity to narrow your audience, or target based on device usage, perhaps some of the insights that Mr. Marston shared would make you think differently about the content, phrasing and the visuals associated with your social media campaigns. Take into consideration some of Mr. Marston’s findings about Baby Boomers. Those, born between 1946 and 1964, relate to the name recognition and history of an organization, and their historical value. The idea of “team” really speaks to them. They are looking for someone to cut through the clutter and guide them. Achievements and Milestones mean a lot to these folks, and they can identify with a marketing message that offers a sense of winning and accomplishment. Two themes offered to describe Boomers were “Forever Young” and “Rebellious”. Does this hold true if you are talking to them about their finances and retirement planning? Probably not, but in world of social media, your message might not always be about finances and retirement. You may be trying to create a different kind of community where it’s okay to play those themes up. Marston went on to say, Boomers email, text, use social media, but, they’re averse of too much technology; face-to-face interaction still works best with this group. They like to engage in conversation, share stories and have fun. This holds true for telephone conversations as well. They also rely on emails, but are looking for proper letter writing, not the shorthand that is so prevalent with younger generations. And their use of texting is reserved for friends and family. Armed with this information, how would you apply this to a Boomer when creating a Facebook campaign? They may not be the most technologically savvy, but they’re on Facebook. They want to see what their kids and grandkids are up to, and keep in touch with old friends. Ask yourself, can you dedicate content that shares stories of achievement, or can you speak to Boomers like they are a member of your community or “team”? Will the images resonate with their “rebellious” side? And what about Gen X’ers, those born between 1965-1980? The generation once described as the “lost” generation, and incapable of making decisions, are anything but. Yes, they are ego centric. They want to know how things will impact them and their future. Marston suggests that when approaching Generation X, they want to be educated and given options. Explain the product and features and know they will use technology to research everything, and then they will decide. Because of their love for technology, Gen X’ers prefer email and text, but want you get to the point. They also have a sense of humor…they appreciate a message that is slightly irreverent. When communicating with the Gen X’er let your personality show. Unlike Boomers, it’s not the historical value, but rather the personal value that intrigues them. Can they see you as a partner? How would your Facebook post differ if you were targeting the Gen X’er? Would you let them know how this post impacts them and their future? Would you show more of your company personality? Would you direct them to more online research? Creatively, can you play to their wry sense of humor? Think about their traits and how they respond to messages as you create your marketing and messaging plan. And despite the retirement focus on Boomers and Gen X, Marston didn’t exclude the Millennials. Those, born between 1980 and 1995, also referred to as Gen Y, are also about the ego. If your message isn’t about them, they aren’t interested. They are an optimistic group, and have lofty goals, but still think of the future in the short term. They have been well provided for, possibly too much so. This generation is used to winning accolades just for showing up. They are realizing life’s stages later in life than their Gen X or Boomer counterparts. They aren’t used to hearing no, and technology is their friend. Want to reach a Millennial via Facebook? Make it about them and play to their optimistic side and give them the sense that they are winning. This generation is more likely to “Like” or retweet you. The retirement income industry for years had to tread lightly with their marketing efforts and can now communicate with their customers and prospects in a much more light-hearted and targeted way. Social media does not have to be the usual retirement savings message. The ability to directly reach multiple audiences with segmented content, including posts, tweets, videos, even infographics, presents a welcome opportunity in the industry.