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Paul Hudson
Paul Hudson CEO of Intersperience
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Engaging Silver Surfers

Whilst it is vital to push the boundaries and engage with a younger audience, it is often the over 45s who are the backbone of online research communities.  So to keep your over 45s awake and ready to give you feedback at the drop of a hat, I’ve compiled some handy tips that will see them flocking to give you their views.

Be creative

Something to consider is that people hate to be asked the same question and, in my experience, you’re far more likely to be criticised for this by the over 45s than you are the under 25s. So, if you have to ask the same question, be creative in how you do it.

Don’t bore your community members, don't just re-phrase the question and start a new forum topic; use your imagination and make the most of the tools you have at your disposal!

Here’s an example, you receive a request from an online client, where the simple answer would be run a few threads and polls. At Intersperience we’re lucky to be able to think outside the box; we can use a multitude of techniques with an interesting twist to strive for the answers. Ultimately, we avoid making the tasks tedious and in the long term provide far greater insight to our clients.

See value in experience

Regardless of age, members who feel they are valued are much more likely to participate. Make the most of the experience and knowledge of the older age groups; take an interest and probe that little bit further.

Not only might you uncover some new insight, you’ll make members feel valued and the next time you ask them something, they’ll want to share.

Delegate community responsibilities

Every online community has at least one member who has to have the first post on new content. It’s very likely that these members are aged over 45 and if you run a branded customer panel, are highly critical of the brand. Whilst this level of engagement is great, it can be intimidating to less active members.

Give these members a Community Leader badge. Encourage them to act as ambassadors of the community; commend them for their enthusiasm; ask them to welcome new members and encourage people to post on current discussions but without necessarily posting first. It will maintain their engagement and boost that of others.

Tailor your communication

Over 45’s aren’t digital natives and as mentioned are the most critical audience: so keep that in mind when communicating with them.

If you need to give instructions for an online task make the instructions clear and easy to follow. 

Moderation and facilitation will also need to be carefully thought out - perhaps don't send invites to more off topic activities to those known to be highly critical; otherwise you might see responses such as this “I’ve lost my head why **** are asking about pancake day…” – and yes, someone did post that this year!

Don't over play social networking 

Last but not least. Social networking might be playing an ever growing part in our lives but some of our research showed that people over 45 are generally less engaged with Facebook. So trying too hard to engage with someone this age via this channel could well leave you red in the face and have the opposite effect than the one desired. Instead use email; they’ll be a lot more receptive.

Whilst there are lots of other ways to maximise the engagement of the over 45s, these 5 should go a long way to helping. Use them alongside strategies to maximise the participation of the under 25s and you will see your online research communities going from strength to strength.

If you take anything away from this blog, let it be this quote from an anonymous author;

“Humour helps us to think out of the box. The average child laughs about 400 times per day, the average adult laughs only 15 times per day. What happened to the other 385 laughs?”

Keep this in mind and not only will you be more creative in your research techniques, you’ll see much higher levels of engagement from the older members of your research panel and you’ll gain some invaluable insights.

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