Silver Tweeters


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The first in our series of insights focusing on adding some attitudinal colour to traditional segmentations:
Silver Tweeters: how the over 50's are talking about retirement on the social web

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  • Today I would like make the case for using social content to derive consumer insights, and to explain how to go about doing this when seeking to understand opinion on issues that matter to the over-50’s. I’ll demonstrate that around the issue of retirement. I have 15 minutes to do all that, so I’d better get going!
  • Let’s firstly briefly explore how to derive social insights from social data. And let’s start that with a question.
  • Why is an insight like a fridge??
  • Because, when you look into it, the light comes on.Now, I must confess that the credit for this definition of an insight must go to Jeremy Bullmore, but it’s as good a definition as I have come across, and it is source-neutral i.e. an insight can come from looking into any source of opinion. And social media is a vast source of many varieties of opinion about so many different things and expressed by so many different people.
  • In fact, the challenge when considering using social media for research is not that there is any shortage of opinion, in fact the difficulty is that there is so much opinion – and lots of other content besides – that it can be difficult to tame the beast. Monitoring tools are essential in order to identify, extract, filter and support analysis. But they are insufficient.
  • However, whilst monitoring tools are an essential pre-requisite to social media research, they are insufficient. The out-of-the box analysis measures they provide are becoming more accurate, but they are still far from perfect. In fact, with automated sentiment accuracy often at a claimed 60%, you almost may as well flip a coin. The crucial element, just as in any other market research, is the human element – people. Researchers.
  • What’s also important when using social content to identify insights is mindset and expectations – how you think about the group or issue you are researching. A lot of the discussion this morning was about how we need to think about the over-50’s, not in terms of their age or other demographics, but rather, in terms of their attitudes and behaviours – and to be prepared to be surprised. These findings chime in with the mindset and expectations that need to be borne in mind when doing social media research. Essentially, it is very difficult to identify demographics at scale or at a micro-level within social media, because the information that people choose to reveal about themselves varies markedly.
  • In truth, we can’t tell you exactly who the ‘Silver Tweeters’ are or what they think. What we can do, however, is to take an issue-led approach, to tell you what people think about issues that are relevant to the over-50’s. Again, as we’ve seen already today, assumption is dangerous – stereotype still more so – but, if we take an issue that we know is important to the over-50’s, such as retirement, we can research opinions around that ‘Silver Issue’, if you will. We can identify opinion-based segments and draw conclusions from the social media channels where those particular opinions towards retirement are more prominent, and draw conclusions as to what types of consumer might be generating these different opinions.
  • We reviewed all available UK social media content containing the word ‘retirement’ over the last three months that can be attributed to the UK, and we reviewed samples of that content by hand in order to identify the different opinions about the topic that are present within the content. What we found was three really quite clear strands of opinion – opinion-based segments, if you will. On the one hand, there are those who, via the content they create, appear to view retirement with excitement, as a means of escape from the drudgery of working life. On the other, there are those who are coming to terms with the reality that retirement will come later and be poorer than they had hoped for. Then, there are those who appear more sanguine about the prospect of retirement, who are seeking to come to terms with the new reality by carefully planning for it. We’ll now look at each of these opinion-based segments in a little more detail, to understand at a top level where these opinions are being expressed and, accordingly, by whom.
  • This segment can be summed up by the statement that “I’m looking forward to retirement and these are my plans”. This strand of opinion is characterised by conversations in which people share their hopes and dreams for retirement. Much of the conversation appears somewhat disconnected from reality, in many cases probably knowingly so, as it is quite flippant and rather ‘wouldn’t it be nice if’ in nature. Often, the conversations are around contrasting the experience of working life today with dreams of a different tomorrow.We found that comments of this nature were relatively more likely to be posted on micro-blogging platforms such as Twitter (where 26% of users are 45 and over) or forums such as Digital Spy (where 35% of visitors are 45+). As we shall see in a moment, the people posting this kind of comment are, therefore, possibly younger than those who feel cheated and chastened or who are pragmatically planning, and an analysis of specific posts from users who share demographic information would appear to bear this out. Consumers expressing these opinions about retirement may therefore feel it is something of a faraway dream, as distinct from a looming reality. They are less likely to be our ‘Silver tweeters’.
  • This segment can be summed up by the statement “I’m angry about the changes the government is making to state and / or public pensions”. Although changes to the retirement age did attract some flippant comments – along the lines, for example, of ‘at this rate I’ll be working ‘til I’m a hundred’, this strand of opinion about retirement is characterised by a strong degree of anger and frustration. – very different to our ‘excited escapsim’ segment. What seems to drive this chastened feeling is the sense that people feel they have been cheated – that a contract has been broken. This expression of opinion is quite focused on anger at the changes – those expressing the opinions are focused less on coming to terms with the new reality and more on fighting the changes. We found that comments of this nature were relatively more likely to be posted on sites used by public sector workers (such as teaching site - which has a much higher proportion of female users). Analysis of individual posts suggests that these opinions, though frequently - as in our example here - expressed by the under-50’s, are also expressed by the over-50’s. Our ‘Silver tweeters’ are expressing this opinion. However, again, we would make the point that this is less about age and more about opinion. The anger is driven by that sense of having the rug pulled from under one’s feet, but also by a certain despair that the promise of not working has just disappeared much further over the horizon. The prospect of many more years of work hangs over those who are weary of doing so, and this seems less a function of age and more a function of experience.
  • Just to build on this, we researched opinions expressed within social media specifically about the retirement age.Perhaps unsurprisingly, the majority of opinions expressed disagreement with the decision to raise the retirement age. The more emotive responses came from those who felt that the changes were simply unfair and many of these were public sector workers who felt that the government had essentially broken a contract.Other opposition to the move focused on the argument that it would serve to increase youth unemployment and cost the country more money through unemployment benefits. There was comparatively little support for the move but, amongst the 21% of opinion that expressed support for raising the retirement age, the argument that was often expressed was that this simply had to be done because of an ageing population.
  • This segment can be summed up by the statement “I’m serious about planning for retirement”. This strand of opinion is characterised by detailed discussion about how best to plan for retirement. Those expressing the opinion that retirement needs to be planned for carefully, or who share details of their plans, tend to put an emphasis on financial planning. The implication is that those expressing this opinion have come to terms with the reality that retirement now brings the risk of poverty, and that this must be planned for. There is little anger expressed here – more a sense of pragmatism. In fact, there is actually a lot of sharing of investment success stories, suggesting that there is a group of consumers who enjoy the challenge of planning their financial future.We found that Pragmatic Planning conversations took place on on financial forums such as or personal finance message boards like (on which 45% of users are aged 45 and over). Therefore, comments that fit into this typology appear to be more likely than those fitting into the other typologies to be made by our ‘Silver tweeters’. This doesn’t, of course, mean that ‘Silver tweeters’ are all reconciled to the realities of retirement, but it does suggest that for some, at least, retirement is something to be planned for, not dreamt about or feared.
  • An opportunity for brands wishing to gain traction with the over-50’s is to help them to move from being Cheated and Chastened to being Pragmatic Planners who are reconciled with the reality of working longer and working to avoid the risk of poverty when they do retire. In order to do so, it is important to recognise the fear that appears to be one of the characteristics that drives the Cheated and Chastened. The fear for them appears to be less of poverty in retirement – after all, the prospect of retirement has just receded over the horizon, and more around having to work longer when they are already weary and wishing to stop.As the retirement age increases and the period of wishing keenly for an end to working is prolonged, helping the over-50’s to come to terms with the weariness and stress of a prolonged pre-retirement lifestage is likely to be one of the benefits brands that win with the over 50’s bring to them. How can you generate creative options and mitigration strategies, so that this pre-retirement lifestage takes on a different definition?
  • Silver Tweeters

    1. 1. Silver TweetersSocial Insights Into The Over 50’sOlder, Richer, Wiser?James WitheyHead of Brand InsightPrecise+44 (0)20 7264
    2. 2. Social Insights Into The Over 50’sFrom Social Data To Social InsightSocial Insights Into The Over 50’s
    3. 3. From Social Data to SocialInsight
    4. 4. Why is an insight like a fridge?Image courtesy ofMagnetbox from Flickr
    5. 5. Once you look into it, thelight comes on.(Jeremy Bullmore) Image courtesy of crazytales562 from Flickr
    6. 6. There is an unfathomablyhuge volume of social datacontent being created andshared across thesocial web.2 Image courtesy of Roberto Verso on Flickr
    7. 7. Monitoring tools arevital, but insufficient.Automated sentiment?Flip a coin.People are better! Image courtesy of ImagesOfMoney from Flickr
    8. 8. We need to look at thesegment differently.Issues and opinions, notdemographics.8 Image courtesy of Iragerich from Flickr
    9. 9. Less about‘silver tweeters’.More about opinions on‘silver issues’.9 Image courtesy of Iragerich from Flickr
    10. 10. Social Insights Into TheOver-50’s
    11. 11. RetirementWe identified all UK-based social media discussions about ‘retirement’and discovered three broad opinion-based segments.1. 2. 3.Excited Escapism Cheated & Chastened Pragmatic PlanningImage courtesy of Irwandy from Flickr Image courtesy of DulcieLee from Flickr Image courtesy of 401K from Flickr
    12. 12. Excited Escapism“I’m looking forward to retirement and these are my plans”  Consumers sharing hopes and dreams for retirement.  Somewhat disconnected from reality - perhaps knowingly so - as rather flippant and often light-hearted.  Relatively more likely to be posted on Twitter (26% of users are 45 and over) or Image courtesy of Irwandy from Flickr forums such as Digital Spy (where 35% of visitors are 45+).A faraway dream, not a looming reality – unlikely to be our ‘silver tweeters’23-year-old male working at “I actually cant wait for retirement. It looks amazing, justhospitality group in Ayr sit about reading the paper all day drinking tea #bliss”
    13. 13. Cheated & Chastened“I’m angry about the changes the government is making to state and /or public pensions”  A strong degree of frustration and anger.  Driven by the feeling of being cheated – that a contract has been broken.  Less about coming to terms with reality, more about fighting the changes.  Relatively more likely to be posted on sites used by public sector workers (such as Image courtesy of DulcieLee from Flickr teaching site by all ages, but relatively older.Despair that the prospect of not working has receded. Some ‘silver tweeters’.40-year-old district “Im a district nurse and my state retirement age is 67. Im alreadynurse knackered at 40! They just want more and more from you.”
    14. 14. How do the public feel about the retirement age debate? Agree with or understand the need to raise the retirement age 21% Disagree with the decision or need to raise the retirement age 79%
    15. 15. Pragmatic Planners“I’m serious about planning for retirement”  Detailed discussion, emphasis on finance.  Have come to terms with risk of poverty, and are planning to avoid it.  A lot of sharing of investment successes.  Relatively more likely to be posted on financial forums such as or personal finance message boards like Image courtesy of 401K from Flickr (on which 45% of users are aged 45 and over).Plan for retirement, rather than dreaming about or fearing it. More ‘silver tweeters’.Money Saving Expert “Ive been saving and investing more than 60% of my net incomeuser plus gross pension contributions”
    16. 16. Help people come to terms with and prepare for that longer road to retirement.Image courtesy of Ryan Wick from Flickr
    17. 17. Thank you