Move Over, Generation Whippersnapper! Here Come the Granfluencers
You don't have to be young to launch a viral video.
Reader Alert: I am about to wade into a subject I know next to nothing about (as if that was new for me).
I don’t do Instagram. I don’t do Tik Tok. I have never knowingly followed a Kardashian – on social media or down the street. I don’t understand how social media “influencers” gain millions of followers by posting about what they ate for breakfast.
There are whole areas of the zeitgeist that may as well be the blightgeist for all I know.
Still, I am determined to write about influencers. If you’re as clueless as me, here’s what I’ve learned (from the internet, of course): An influencer creates content on social media and develops a following when that content inspires, entertains, informs, and connects with followers. Influencers start social conversations, drive engagement, and set trends among their receptive audiences.
That last point explains why marketers flock to influencers, waving money. Businesses see a way to promote their products to these 21st century tastemakers. Those with the largest and most loyal followings – and who (by definition) are unable to grasp the very concept of shy – can become wealthy tycoons.
For the most part, the influencer business has been a young person’s game. But look out, kids – the new kid in town just may be in her 90s.
Yes, Baby Boomers are entering the lists. “Granfluencers,” as the media have dubbed them, are showing up for at least two reasons. One, they feel it’s morally wrong for youngsters to have all the fun. And two, because the marketing industrial complex has been stubbornly pursuing the shiny new bauble of the youth market and ignoring our generation. Which, by the way, (ahem) controls 70% of the disposable income in the U.S. Granfluencers are filling the vacuum. As it turns out, two out of three Baby Boomers have smartphones, and 82 percent who are online have social media accounts. Baby Boomers drive nearly 60% of digital purchases. And if Madison Avenue won’t reach out to us, by golly somebody will.
Overnight Sensation at 85
Among the most prominent granfluencers is Helen Ruth Elam, a 92-year-old fashion diva better known as “baddiewinkle.” She became an overnight sensation on the internet at age 85 and now has 3.4 million followers. Her followers look to her for her colorful (and sometimes outrageous) flair and her sense of humor. Words cannot adequately convey the experience, but you can check her out at Instagram or YouTube.
Another Instagram fashion influencer is Lyn Slater, 67, an associate professor at Fordham University School of Law. Her moniker, “iconaccidental,” says it all: At a fashion event she attended, photographers mistook her for a model. She uses her platform to speak to “women (like me) who are not famous or celebrities but are smart, creative, fashion forward, fit, thoughtful, engaged, related and most importantly clear and comfortable with who they are.”
Fashion is not the only field. Joan MacDonald, 74, has garnered 1.6 million followers for her trainwithjoan posts about physical fitness, including both a workout program and nutritional guidance. Travelingblackwidow is a retired guidance counselor whose posts about her extensive travels are eagerly gobbled up by appreciative fans.
Men have also gotten into the act. On Tik Tok, four long-time friends who called themselves The Old Gays have attracted 3 million followers by creating videos of themselves singing, dancing, and dispensing sound advice for the LGBTQ+ community. They have also landed appeared on television shows and inked a deal for a docuseries about themselves.
Okay, social media influencing is not for me, and maybe not for you. But isn’t it refreshing to know that badass grannies can compete successfully with the young tykes?
Now, Some Important Business…
· If you’re reading the newsletter in your email, you may be missing half the fun! Check out the reader comments. Last week’s piece on ageism in medicine produced a particularly vibrant exchange, which you can see here. The comments are one way this newsletter fosters a community of readers.
· Also last week, two links I included for Changing the Narrative, an exciting public awareness campaign about ageism in healthcare, were defective. They have been corrected. You also can learn more about the campaign here.
· In case you missed it, we released a new podcast this week featuring Jeanette Leardi, an able advocate for anti-ageism, who shares a number of fascinating observations.
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