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Social Media for the MTV Generation | Evolving Your Digital Strategy for Consumer Personas

By Alyssa Ermish

At, we always hone in on our clients’ target audiences when we begin to build a campaign strategy. An effective social media plan requires insight into who will consume your content, who should be clicking through to your websites, and who will make a purchase or fill out a lead form.

We consider demographic info like household income and size, location, gender, cultural background, and education level to determine who our client’s audience is — and which marketing tactics will best speak to them. But with all of this data at our fingertips, it begs the question: How do we consider generational trends?

Over three blog posts, I’m taking a deep dive into some of the things we know about the primary generations consuming digital content — Gen X, Millennials, and Gen Z — and sharing how these distinctions can help us pinpoint what they want to see from the brands they follow on social media.

Quick note: The insights I’m sharing are generalized — these overarching characteristics of each generation obviously won’t apply to every individual. I’ll focus on trends and motivations of these groups on the whole. In other words, you may not fit the stereotypes of your generation!

Let’s start with the children of the ‘80s.

Who is Gen X? (Born between 1965-1980)

Academics sometimes identify Generation X as the “latchkey” generation. Xers were the first kids to experience a household with two working parents who were often less acutely involved in their lives. To make matters more complicated, the prominence of Baby Boomers before and Millennials after has given them a characterization as the “forgotten middle child.”

Another nickname — “the MTV Generation” — isn’t an accident either. In an era of increased programming and access to cable, TV often became a third parent. More than just witnessing the introduction and proliferation of subversive music videos and non-network television, Xers watched technology develop and become ubiquitous before their very eyes. Generation X watched home computers, the internet, and social media grow from their infancy to the everyday essentials they are today.

Despite growing up in an era of economic prosperity, events like the Great Recession of 2007-09 — and the ever-looming threat of disappearing Social Security benefits as they approach retirement — have turned this into a money-conscious group. These events (paired with their independent upbringing) have made this generation especially individualistic and generally mistrusting of institutions and large collectives.

What Do They Want?

The autonomous upbringing and life experiences of Gen X has made them self-reliant, self-focused, frugal, and a group that's never been too concerned about rocking the boat. As the aforementioned MTV Generation, they're not looking for starch-collared formality from their brands — but they're also not going to demand change with the times or worry too much about appearances of authenticity.

As an individualistic group, what they are most looking for from brands is discovering products that benefit them in direct and straightforward ways. Primarily responsible for the rise of informational "hack" videos and trends, Xers want to know which of their problems you can solve, how you can help their budget, their daily routines, their health, their home, etc. Feelings and experiences are overall less important to them than results.

Gen X wants to know that your product works as advertised — and if it happens to save them or their company money at the same time, that’s an extra point in the win column for your marketing department. Think back to the ads and campaigns of the ‘90s and ‘00s and how they drew in Gen Xers' attention at the time. BOGO sales, discount warehouses, cost-efficient electronics, and credit cards that could save you time and money dominated the TV ad space.

What’s Your Best Strategy?

Don't make the mistake of dismissing this generation in your social media strategies or underestimating their buying power, especially considering their market share. They're a tech-savvy bunch who use social media almost as much as younger groups and who rely on brands' online presence to identify new products. Sprout Social reports that "fifty-six percent of Gen X consumers learn about new brands on social media, and many value the additional product research opportunities a brand's active online presence creates." This goes for their B2B procurement behavior just as much as it does their consumer habits.

That being said, you’ll find a few ways in which this generation is a little bit more old-fashioned. Unlike younger generations, they don’t necessarily place value in a brand having a “face.” To Xers, it doesn’t make much of a difference if a brand is authentic or if they have endorsements from celebrities or influencers — as long as their marketing shows that the product or service actually works as intended.

For this reason, user-generated content (UGC) may not have a significant effect on this audience — more effective strategies include infographics, tutorials, how-to videos, testimonials, and evidence that can show or convince how your product will benefit a buyer. Xers want to see content that informs in clear and straightforward ways without requiring much additional introspection or analysis. The iconic “I’m a PC, I’m a Mac” commercials are a near-perfect example — they’re fun, short, informal, and uncomplicated but also aim to educate the consumer about the benefits of one product over a major competitor’s.

In addition to information about a product, brand, service, or lifestyle, this group also values thoughtful interaction and communication on social media. According to Sprout Social, “Thirty-seven percent of Gen X consumers have used social media for customer service, making it a key channel these consumers turn to when they need to resolve an issue.” This means that you can build or strengthen trust when you provide quality social media interactions, making it essential to have a team (like ours) consistently building that relationship with your buyers and economic decision-makers.

Are you an Xer? Do you agree with my analysis? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

Stay tuned (as Gen Xers grew up hearing) for the next blog post, covering everyone’s favorite generation: Millennials.

Alyssa Ermish is a community manager at with a passion for written language. Armed with her knowledge of the latest trends in the digital marketing space and her chameleon-like ability to match her writing to the tone your brand needs, she is the cross-stitching, sticker collecting, social media junky you didn’t even know you were looking for.

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