Movie theaters don’t have a monopoly on silver screens anymore. Our devices are getting a tinge of silver from a seemingly unlikely source: senior influencers. A growing set of Baby Boomers are dominating platforms from Instagram to TikTok, proving that social stardom has no age limit.
Maybe we shouldn’t be surprised. In 2010, Betty White became the oldest person to host SNL after nearly half a million people liked a Facebook page petitioning her to take the gig. Grace and Frankie—a show almost entirely based around the concept of aging—debuted the second half of its final season at #2 on Netflix in the US. The Golden Girls steadily regained popularity for years, hitting its peak of 381 million minutes streamed between January 3-9 of 2022 alone.
How did we go from searching for the fountain of youth to embracing the idea of age?
Why we love senior influencers
Expanding into older demographics makes sense for brands. After all, it’s estimated that Baby Boomers control 50% of all US household wealth. But senior content creators (also known as “granfluencers”) are reaching across generational lines. A joint TikTok account belonging to four gay men in their 70s has 7.3 million followers—many of whom belong to Gen Z. Most Gen Z influencers can’t say they have the same following from their Baby Boomer counterparts. So why is granfluencer content so compelling?
They’re sprightly at 70+
Part of the appeal of senior influencer content is the surprise factor. These creators defy stereotypes every time they grab a ring light. Younger generations often assume that older generations are out of touch, technophobic and frankly, removed from internet culture. Seeing senior content creators participate in trends, wear the kinds of clothing you’d see on a Zara mannequin and showcase their vibrant day-to-day lives is a stark contrast to younger generations’ preconceptions. You can’t help but smile when you see someone’s grandma recite cheesy pickup lines.
They embrace their age
Aging has been positioned as something to fear for a long time. Watching yourself mature reminds you of your own mortality, which is never a fun topic of conversation. But some of it is also societal. Songs, books, movies and even store names have been dedicated to the concept of staying young forever. But senior content creators challenge the idea that life ends at retirement age.
Part of the magic of these creators is their brazen embrace of the aging process. They’re not trying to be 21. Instead, they’re genuinely enjoying this phase of their lives and bringing audiences along for the ride. Whether they’re embracing their wrinkles and gray hair or poking fun at some of their setbacks, senior influencers comfort younger viewers about the prospect of getting older.
They instill trust
Many consumers intrinsically trust older people’s recommendations over younger ones. Maybe it’s because they’re lived experience means they know a good product when they see it. Maybe it’s because seeing an older person use a product makes it feel more accessible because of our intrinsic bias. Or maybe these granfluencers are just good at selling.
The 2022 Sprout Social Index™ found that while authenticity is the second most important factor for brands’ decisions to work with creators, demographic similarity to their audience ranked last.
This might explain why more and more brands, from Adidas to Mazda are turning to senior content creators for brand collaborations.
They break from the curation cycle
Millennials came of age in the time of personal branding. Instagram layouts were color-coordinated. Tweets were meticulously crafted for users’ specific blend of followers. While Gen Z is beginning to break away from that trope, younger creators are still highly conscious of their digital persona.
Older creators don’t necessarily see their virtual self as an extension of their physical self. Instead, social media is a new, instant way to share things that matter to them. That lends itself to a level of authenticity that consumers crave. As much as consumers across demographics prefer unpolished content, granfluencers seem to be the ones who’ve cracked the code on delivering it.
Senior influencers tend to post outside of their niches more, according to one study. They may be known for fashion or travel, but that won’t stop them from showcasing their garden or grandkids once in a while. Their flexibility helps them feel more human than the influencer who posts solely about her fitness journey or his knowledge about historical facts.
When you add in how much less frequently they post sponsored content, it’s a potent combination. Most consumers (81%) will unfollow creators if they post sponsored content more than a few times per week. The more you post to get paid, the less your audience trusts you. Granfluencers seem to post solely to share with the occasional sales pitch sprinkled in.
Brands and senior influencers: Making space for everyone
For decades, marketers have been laser-focused on youth out of fears that their brand could be associated with the negative connotations around getting older. But, as any granfluencer can tell you, times change. Brand marketing (on and off social) is becoming more inclusive with body types, races and disabilities—and, increasingly, age. In 2022, Maye Musk (Elon’s mother) made headlines for becoming the oldest Sports Illustrated swimsuit cover model at 74.
It’s a solid strategy. The majority (60%) of consumers report that they’re more likely to buy from a brand with inclusive marketing strategies. It’s clear that the era of young, airbrushed models has come to a close. Consumer demands for authenticity have set the stage for a new demographic of influencers to come onto the scene.
1. Jones Road Beauty
Jones Road Beauty, a clean makeup brand focused on enhancing natural beauty, tapped Lynn Shabinksy (@WhiteHairWisdom), a senior influencer with 189,000 Instagram followers, for a video tutorial. By having her showcase her makeup routine for mature skin, Jones Road Beauty put inclusivity on display for a whole new audience.
Lynn’s everyday Jones Road routine – we’re hooked.Video by @whitehairwisdom-The Face Pencil in #8 & #11-Miracle Balm in Magic Hour, Sunkissed & Dusty Rose-The Brow Pencil in Light Brunette-The Best Pencil in Navy-Just A Sec in LinenGolden Peach & Pewter-Sparkle Wash in So Pretty-The Mascara-Lip and Cheek Stick in English Rose-Cool Gloss in Great Red
Posted by Jones Road Beauty on Monday, January 10, 2022
2. Aura Frames
Digital photo frame maker Aura Frames saw unprecedented success when they teamed up with Charlotte Simpson, @TravelingBlackWidow, for a sponsored content partnership. This seemingly unlikely match of a tech company and a retired guidance counselor was a recipe for success. Her Instagram post saw the most engagement the brand had ever received.
3. Bush’s Beans
Canned food favorite Bush’s Beans regularly works with Lynn Yamada Davis, the face behind @CookingWithLynja (over 14 million followers across TikTok and YouTube) to inspire legume cooks worldwide.
Her path to senior influencer stardom began early in the COVID-19 pandemic, when her son began featuring Lynn in short cooking videos to maintain his own production chops. Each short clip packs in a generous dose of humor, costume changes and an informative recipe to boot.
The best has yet to come for senior influencers
Social media is for everyone, regardless of age. Senior influencers are paving the way for a more inclusive—and more interesting—social landscape, for brands and consumers alike.
Looking for the next face of your marketing campaigns? Get our tips for how to find the right influencers for your business.