Instagram: marketing to Millennials vs. Gen X

Marketers and brands alike — as well as the general Twitter population — can’t seem to stop talking about Millennials recently, with skewed descriptions such as ‘self-involved’, ‘entitled’, and ‘disillusioned’ typically thrown into the mix. The obvious comparisons then follow between this generation and its predecessors, Generation X. Whilst differences  are bound to be laid out, there are actually more similarities in the social habits of these two generations than one might immediately assume.

These labels have been thrown around for quite some time, but we should first outline exactly what we mean by the terms Generation X and Millennials. ‘Millennials’ refers to those born roughly between the years of 1980 and 2000. Also known as Generation Y, Millennials are paving a new way to approach work, seeking out a better work-life balance than any generation before them. They’re also often referred to as those that do “fake social media jobs” (I guess that’s me then!). ‘Generation X’, on the other hand, are their precursors; in other words, their parents. Born roughly between the 1960s and 1980s, they are sometimes known as the ‘in-between’ generation; those that came after the Baby Boomers and before the Millennials. There are stark differences between Generation X and Millennials, and yet, also many similarities — this is especially true online.

Closer than you think?

Social media usage patterns between these two groups actually reflect each other quite closely among the dominant social platforms. The ways we consume media, the devices we choose to engage from, the times that we are active online, and the forms of media we engage with are all quite similar when comparing Generations X and Y. But the differences come in the ways we engage on various platforms, and how much each platform is able to draw us in.

Facebook has an almost equal percentage of Generation X users as it does Millennials. According to the Social Times, 88% of Millennials own a Facebook account, compared to 81% of Gen Xers. It is seen as the platform for friends and family. To the Millennials, this is where they keep updated on old school friends’ news — from a mostly non-interactive distance — but not necessarily where they engage the most. Facebook has become the main social hub for Gen X: this group engage with their Facebook friends and are more likely to post updates regularly.

Instagram, on the other hand, is a key platform where the two generations diverge. It is very much the domain of the younger generation, driven by images and videos of the newest fads and trends, the most popular styles, and the healthiest breakfasts! Its overall style is also more aligned with this younger audience, particularly when compared to Facebook, whose user interface has remained largely unchanged over the past ten years.

What does this mean for marketing?

A company aiming to reach Generation X customers would find little draw in a campaign across Instagram: it is simply not where their audience spends their time. A brand with an aim of reaching Millennials, however, could hugely benefit from a targeted Instagram campaign. While the Millennial generation are much more accustomed to life online, they don’t want to feel like they are being advertised to. They want to feel valued. They want to engage. Particularly on a platform whose sole purpose is fun!

This means you need to give them something of value that builds a relationship with your brand. Keeping in vogue with Instagram’s style is key here: it’s about in-the-moment photo sharing — even if your photo is scheduled a week in advance! A brand’s images on Instagram need to have a real-life feel to them — products on a blank canvas won’t cut it here.

It’s been found that 32% of Facebook users engage with brands regularly, compared to 68% who engage regularly with brands on Instagram — that’s a 58% engagement increase on Instagram! If you can get it right, an Instagram campaign can really make a difference to your business. To get some ideas of how this can be done successfully, here are some companies killing the Instagram game right now:

Who’s doing it right?


These guys are obviously doing something right, as they’re one of the most followed brands on Instagram. Their secret lies in the power of the ‘#Regram’ — often re-posting images that their followers (and target audience) share themselves, enabling them to connect with consumers on a more personal level.

Tip: Try connecting with your followers by ‘regramming’ their posts and engaging directly through comments and likes.




If Instagram was a competition, Nike would definitely be winning. With the highest number of followers for a fashion brand, as well as the greatest number of mentions, it is way out in front. Through its engagement campaigns, encouraging followers to post images of their own trainers, using the #Nike hashtag, they have become the biggest and best brand on Instagram.

Tip: Set up a photo competition, encouraging your followers to share their own images with a particular hashtag relevant to your brand.




This growing, UK-based company has really mastered the Instagram game. With a consistent image editing style and theme running through all their posts, their page is inviting to look at and in keeping with their main website’s style. For a site dedicated to images, these guys know what they’re doing!

Tip: Maintain a consistent theme and/or style to your images and videos — always use the same few filters to create a sleek and consistent look.


It’s not just big brands that are making the most of a strong Instagram following — more and more bloggers are using Instagram as a way to brand themselves and get their images and blog posts out there. Again, a consistent theme is key — as is originality. Alyssa Ramos shares her travel photos with a specific style, which makes for a really slick and engaging account.

Tip: Make it personal. People love engaging with a human story they feel they can follow and be a part of. It’s part of the reason bloggers have made such a splash on Instagram.



Can we predict the future?

Short answer: probably not! However, we can have an educated guess as to the direction of social media usage patterns across the coming years. Facebook, as the parent company of Instagram, could be an indicator of how this younger social platform may evolve going forward. Where Facebook is the current hub for the older Generation X, there may be a move to introduce Gen X to this newer platform, where they will settle into their own patterns and trends. As the audience and users of Instagram evolve, so too will marketing patterns on this platform to embrace the change and reach a wider consumer base. As ever, the online social sphere is constantly changing, and marketing strategies will continue to react to what happens.

Itching to get your brand out over Instagram, but still aren’t sure exactly how to do it? No problem. Drop us a line and let’s chat about how we can help you.

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