We tend to use uniform appeals to join a social group regardless of the age of prospective members.
Yet age has a huge impact upon someone’s motivation to join and participate.
Younger people, for example, are highly concerned by increasing their status. They’re willing to experience and try new things. They’re more concerned with getting along with others and following social norms.
Status-related appeals and messages are very effective with this group. They should be the number one tool in your toolbox (please be subtle, conspicuous status-boosting is considered a low-status activity).
But older generations are likely to be very different.
Robin Hansen’s Life’s Laminar Endgame suggests older generations are:
Focused more on direct, local, immediate, consequences of our actions and […] less worried about wider social punishment of our behaviors. Fewer people matter to us, their and our life paths are more predictable, and we understand our smaller social world much better. So we can more directly calculate the consequences of what we do to people. Thus we are more willing to betray distant allies of allies, as we less fear their future reprisal.
Now how does this impact how we structure appeals to join and participate in groups?
My feeling (I haven’t found time to test this) is older generations are more interested in both helping those closest to them and enjoying the activity itself.
Thus appeals to older groups should orientate around the joy of the task itself and the helping others close to them. This probably impacts the community concept too. Inviting people to be an expert, be part of an exclusive group etc. won’t be as effective among this crowd.
And this barely scratches the surface of how the generation/life stage of the audience will change the messages you use to get people to join and participate.
Men and women entering their early 30’s, for example, are probably in two very different mindsets depending if they have/haven’t had children and even if they’re single, coupled, married or divorced.
This should change both how you interact with your audience on an individual and group level. Eventually it boils down to hopes and fears. Yet our hopes and fears very much change as we age. Fear of being excluded, left behind, and socially isolated are dominant when we’re young. We care less about these things as we get older.
If you’re targeting men and women under 30, status-related appeals are still likely to be the most powerful tool in your arsenal. If you’re targeting groups 50+ focus on social benefits to those closest to you and the joy of the task itself.
For those in-between, you need to do a lot more digging to find out where most people cluster around.
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