The Generational Gap Associated with Online Usage is Closing

by Mark Smither
November 29, 2011

“Our father is very tech savvy. We have to set things up for him, but after that, he’s good. He’s not afraid of it.”

Justin, 35, Minnesota

These days, the concept of family farming often involves an older father who is nearing retirement and a younger son or daughter who is taking on more responsibility around the farm. It also involves two different approaches when it comes to making important purchase decisions. This unique dynamic is the subject of Paulsen’s latest thought paper, “How Multi-generational Farming Operations Make Major Purchase Decisions.”

To answer this question, Paulsen conducted 14 different interviews with farm families across the Midwest. We spoke with two different farming demographics: older row crop producers, ages 46 to 70, and younger row crop producers, ages 25 to 45. These demographics represent a typical father-son(s) or father-daughter(s) farming operation. The purpose of these interviews was to gain insight into the purchase patterns of multi-generational farm families and identify ways agri-marketers can effectively reach this important audience.

This is what we learned: The generational gap associated with online usage is closing.

While online marketing efforts are gaining significance with both older and younger producers, they have not displaced traditional ag media as a trusted source of information. However, we did notice two emerging themes regarding online usage:

Older producers are spending more time online
Several producers in this demographic reported that they are going online more often and for longer periods of time. More importantly, they are engaging in more advanced online activities such as following blogs, contributing to forums, subscribing to specialized content, participating in online auctions and making online purchases.

Younger producers are creating their own peer networks
Younger producers are reaching out to other young producers and cultivating their own trusted networks of peers, including those formed in online communities. They often seek and provide advice online using organized forums and ag-related social media channels.

Ag-related social media channels include online communities developed by trade publications, commodity groups and issue-orientated organizations. These are considered to be more work related by young producers—and therefore more relevant to their needs as a producer. Conversely, they tend to view Facebook and Twitter as non-work related.

Online usage is just one of the many observations discussed in Paulsen’s latest thought paper. Read the complete paper and discover the key marketing takeaways.


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