Some older adults have millions of followers — and they are pitching all sorts of products, services and ideas
By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Conventional marketing pushes young people as the face of a brand or as the influencers on social media.
“Grandfluencers” are interrupting that trend. A portmanteau of “grandparent” plus “influencer,” the trend bucks the convention of youth-driven culture and marketing with older adults, some of whom have millions of followers — yes, millions. The real surprise is the age of many of their followers.
According to AARP, the number of people 50 and older has increased their use of social media during the pandemic to serve not only as a means of staying in touch with loved ones but also for self-expression. Granfluencers are not only appealing to others in their age cohort. For example, consider Shirley Curry, aka Skyrim Grandma (www.youtube.com/results?search_query=skyrim+grandma), an octogenarian in Ohio who has built a fanbase of 1.22 million subscribers, many are young enough to be her grandchildren. In fact, Curry calls them her grandchildren. The novelty of a grandmother master gamer is likely what draws subscribers to her channel. However, for business-based social media pages, an older poster may elicit a sense of trust and authenticity.
That’s the case for Jim Nocek, a septuagenarian and owner of Anyela’s Vineyards in Skaneateles.
Nocek frequently represents the business on Facebook and Instagram, along with posts featuring others involved with the vineyard and guests. His wife and business partner, Patti, manages the business’ marketing with assistance from Gilded Social, a marketing firm in Syracuse.
Although not as famous as Curry, Nocek’s posts garner a good response, in part because his sage demeanor, born of maturity and experience, makes his message resonate with followers. Plus, people expect to see an older vintner. According to Zippia.com, 51% of winemakers are 40-plus years old. Only 15% are 30 and younger.
Seeing Nocek as the face of the vineyard also ties into the local food trend.
“We noticed that our guests like to see the people who own the vineyard,” his wife said. “Jim is featured a lot. The one thing we can say about age is it brings wisdom.”
A retired high school business teacher from Solvay High School, she understands that marketing must appeal to the wine buying market, not just her 60s age group.
Customers want to buy a product that represents his expertise — he has been in the business since 2008 — along with the whole experience of visiting the winery and tasting products while deciding what to buy. Viewing posts of a knowledgeable vintner helps conceptualize the experience.
“Guests like it when they know who is making the products,” Patti Nocek said. “They want a connection with who makes them.”
Scott Friedberg, CEO of Gilded Social, said that building that personal connection online helps foster more interest in the vineyard’s Club A Select wine membership, which in addition to discounts includes members-only events — opportunities to further connect with Jim and Patti in person.
“One thing we notice is we get great engagement on everything, but if we feature Patti and Jim, we get the most response,” Friedberg said. “People want to connect more with people than products. Having a connection with the producer is deeper and more human.”
Today’s consumers tend to be more curious about how products are made, especially artisanal goods made in smaller batches.
Before starting Anyela’s Vineyards, Nocek worked as a research scientist in large animal physiology at Agway. He still consults occasionally.