Did you check your Facebook newsfeed this morning? If so, chances are you are not a millennial. Millennials, or the generation of young people born roughly between 1981 and 1996, are turning away from Facebook and favouring more intimate, visual social media platforms like Instagram and SnapChat. Facebook is for “old people, like my parents”, as Amy, the candidate, explains in this hilarious but salient job interview.
This is the first generation to grow up with technology, and it is as much a part of their lives as the television was for baby boomers. “Apps” go hand in hand with smart phones; most millennials access social media via portable devices, not on a laptop (and certainly not on a desktop pc). The internet has been reduced to apps. Ask a millennial what browser they use and they may not know what you are talking about.
If you want to market to millennials, what do you need to know about how they think and how they use social media?
Characteristics of millennials
Millennials are known for their use of technology. But this is not the only trait that, stereotypically at least, characterises this generation. Technology is an enabler, not an end in itself. What is it about the use of technology that makes millennials different from Generation Y, Generation X and Baby Boomers? After all, everyone uses technology these days.
Millennials multi-task. They have grown up with an information overload, and they navigate data like the digital natives they are. They are able to assimilate mass quantities of information at once and jump from link to link online, skimming but rarely reading at length. The flip side is that, arguably, they have lost the capacity to delve deeply into a topic. So content targeting millennials needs to be bite-sized, punchy, and preferably visual.
Reliance on technology has turned this generation into browsers when it comes to shopping habits. They spend considerable time browsing the internet for products without actually making purchases. So if your website is getting a lot of hits, that won’t automatically convert to sales.
Millennials see themselves as creative problem-solvers. This may because they are impatient and want fast decisions. They don’t trust branding or advertising. They rely on the opinions of friends, family members or even strangers before making decisions. So they make speedy decisions, but not on their own. Price is important to them, and they invest time in price comparison, but ultimately product quality will count more heavily than price alone. They are not entirely undiscerning.
Millennials are visibly socially conscious. They want to do work that “makes a difference” or “has an impact”. They believe they can change the world and are hypercritical of older generations, whom they believe to be responsible for the mess the world is in. Despite a degree of idealism, they actively support causes they believe in. They favour brands/products/organisations that “give back to society” and are particularly supportive of local initiatives.
Millennials, social media and consumer habits
Millennials expect brands to engage with them on social networks. 62% of millennials say that if a brand interacts with them, they are more likely to become loyal customers. So it is not enough to have a presence. Your social media feeds have to be actively maintained and dynamic, with relevant, regularly changing content. You must respond instantly to queries and comments. If this sounds exhausting, it is! It is no longer sufficient for a junior marketing executive to be responsible for maintaining the Facebook page once a week. Social media is a full-time commitment for any company wanting to target millennials.
Blogs matter. While the authors of blogs may have no earned authority, i.e. no qualifications or experience in their professed field, millennials trust the opinions of bloggers – much more than they trust advertising or conventional sources of information. 33% of millennials rely on blogs for recommendations before making a purchase. By contrast, fewer than 3% turn to TV news, magazines or books. Millennials trust content written by their peers. So if you really want your product to stand out, a mention on a blog is the way to go.
This may surprise you, but while millennials distrust advertising, they are brand loyal. This is not as contradictory as it sounds. Advertising is seen as manipulative, whereas loyalty comes from customer experience. 60% of millennials say they are loyal to brands they currently purchase. This is because, as a result of social media and blogging, they develop a personal relationship with the brands they buy. Connect with millennials, and they will continue to purchase from you when they become fully-fledged adults.
If you really want to engage with millennials, allow them to co-create products with you. 42% say they are interested in helping companies develop future products and services. Fortunately, thanks to social media, this is not as difficult as it sounds. You don’t have to hire a panel of millennial consumers to solicit their input. Create a quick survey and link to it from your Instagram page. Offer a prize draw and see the click-throughs go up.
Millennials love their devices. Most use two or three on a daily basis, with wearable devices gaining popularity all the time. Laptop and desktop pcs may be old school, or suitable mainly for an office environment, but millennials like tablets as much as smart phones. When you upgrade your current app, make sure it is compatible with the iWatch, and stay abreast of new platforms as they emerge, to ensure you engage with millennials in the virtual spaces they inhabit.
Ultimately, millennials want to feel valued. They need to know their ideas are appreciated. It has been said that this generation seeks instant gratification – possibly as a result of growing up with technology that provides results in seconds. Whether you like it or not, these factors typify the millennial generation, though to a greater or lesser extent depending on the individual. It is unwise and unfair to generalise about millions of people. Nevertheless, there is no denying that millennials as a group place more emphasis on technology and rewards than previous generations. Each generation is different, so whether you are recruiting, managing or marketing to millennials, recognition of these factors will help you succeed.