Marketers understand the “Know Thy Audience” truism – but it may be one marketing rule of thumb going largely ignored in social media marketing, where the target always seems to be a young, tech-savvy crowd.

Currently, social media adoption rates among older users is soaring. Which means that Know Thy Audience becomes even more critical – especially when the majority of social media campaigns are seemingly created – and targeted – at very young marketers.

From AdRants (Old Farts Take Over Social Media):

Over all, 47 percent of 50-64 year olds are using social media; an 88 percent growth from 2009. The takeaway? It’s the same takeaway no one in this youth-obsessed advertising business has ever listened to. There’s a lot of “old people” out there and they have a lot of money to spend. The trouble is, it’s just “not cool” to create advertising for “old people” because, by default, “old people” aren’t cool. How could they be? After all, they’re old and couldn’t possibly have a clue as to what’s cool.

In addition to the fact “cool” is largely irrelevant, this line of thinking is ridiculous and illogical but as long as the hallways of ad agencies are primarily staffed with those aged 25-34, nothing is ever going to change.

In my first ad agency job, I wrote for several performance products accounts (Bell Helmets, automotive performance products, racing motorcycles, etc).

Those markets were populated almost entirely by middle-aged (or older) men with a fair amount of disposable income, yet every creative at the agency (in fact, everyone but the owner) was 25 or under.

One of my entry-level jobs was to concept and write the “win” ads  we created on Mondays – usually the result of a good performance by a sponsored team over the weekend.

The half-life of those ads was about two weeks, and some of us – including a young copywriter who was pretty sure he already had all the answers – weren’t really all that heavily supervised.

The numbers feeding back from campaigns disappointed some of us: Actual information outperformed pop culture references.

Years later, I looked back at the ads (by then, filtering out of my portfolio) and wondered if our hip concepts and witty pop references gained any traction at all with our target market.

Probably not.

Social media is altering the channels we use to distribute our messages, but the basic laws of marketing – and copywriting – have not changed.

Know Thy Customer.