Are you a digital marketer, who wants to see an increase in traffic, sharing and engagement? Try targeting the millennial generation. This generation, which was born anywhere from the early 1980s to the early 2000s, currently represents the biggest portion of the working market. They are sometimes called Echo Boomers or Generation Y. They control $600 billion in annual spending the U.S., and that number is set to increase as this generation improves their earning power.
Engaging with the millennial generation can be important for brand awareness, customer acquisition and retention. According to the Pew Internet Research Center, they are set to become the most educated generation in history. They are also the generation that is most tech-savvy, having grown up in a social media world, so it’s important to know how to reach out to them in an effective way.
Shape your campaigns around their characteristics, demographics, engagement tendencies and purchase decisions, and you’ll be sure to have a buy-in from the millennials. Just make sure you understand millennials first. They are an ever-changing demographic that challenges expectations and redefines consumer behavior.
Who are the Millennials?
To engage the millennial generation, you must grow to understand them. This generation has some stunningly different characteristics from their predecessors, Generation X, and their parents, Baby Boomers.
Some of these differences include:
- Staying connected to the web – Millennials were raised among the Internet revolution, and many of the younger members of their generation don’t remember what it’s like to *not* have the web around. It’s natural for them to stay connected via mobile devices.
- Shorter attention spans – A lot has been written about the short attention spans of millennials and there have been several major studies. But what these studies are telling us is that millennials are just better at selecting what appeals to them. It looks like short attention span, but really, it’s just fast filtering.
- More diverse, less cohesive – While previous generations can be grouped together quite easily when it comes to marketing and advertising, millennials have a broader spectrum of demographics that make up their numbers. It’s important to get niche wherever possible with your marketing in order to make a connection.
- Ad avoidance – According to the Everything Guide to Millennials, a report on the attitudes of the generation, 77% of those surveyed actively tune out ads. In addition, 75% of them see all advertising as disruptive. Advertising isn’t going to work through traditional methods, so don’t waste money in that direction.
- A preference for new forms of media – Hulu. Snapchat. Whatsapp. New technology rules when it comes to the media habits of millennials. According to the same report, more of this generation has subscriptions to Netflix than cable television. They engage with media when and where they want to.
So what do you, as a marketer, do with this information? It seems like you’ve got a tall challenge ahead of you if you want to market to this generational group. However, by taking a strategic approach you can effectively engage with the millennial generation and find traction with this burgeoning part of the consumer market.
Here are five best practices for engage with the millennial generation
#1 Avoid traditional advertising
Millennials are very tech savvy, and they are used to seeing advertising on their web platforms. They have almost become immune to anything that is too “salesy” and have amazingly strong filters to ignore advertising. Traditional advertising just doesn’t work. Forget about commercials, opt-in email campaigns and other “reliable” forms of digital marketing. Most millennials will see right through them. You’ll be better off taking a new approach that will actually work with this market. As an alternative, try being more subtle and genuine with your marketing. You need to play the long game with your prospects instead of a short game. It’s a matter of making sure your brand and products are there to answer questions in an engaging, fresh way, subtly building up the layers of trust to eventually make the sale.
#2 Create a quality experience
There’s been a lot of speculation about the instant gratification focus of most millennials. With constant access to technology, they know how to find information online and find it fast. They are used to their questions being answered by the click of a button and want content quickly. They also want their goods and products quickly. This is, after all, the generation that came of age during Amazon Prime and 2-day deliveries.
Trying to marry current media with millennial users is like using a rotary phone in a car. It’s just the wrong kind of technology. This connected generation isn’t going to stick around for a clunky web video to load or pick up the phone and call a toll free number. If you want to engage with them, you need to provide a quality experience in a format that they like. Digital media needs to be fresh and interesting for millennials to care.
It’s not a matter of selecting the right content as much as it is focusing on the delivery method for that content. The delivery of the pieces of content is just as important as the content itself. Does your delivery method capture the user’s attention in a matter of a few seconds? If not, spend some time on the UX side of the experience. The simpler and more intuitive an experience can be, the more likely it will engage millennials.
This doesn’t mean that you’re exempt from creating good content. You need to deliver quality content on social media and through content marketing that millennials find easily relatable. This means that you should consider having dedicated content and social channels just for millennials. They deserve their own special channels and approach. Don’t lump them in together with your other audiences.
#3 Understand the value of timing
Timely and relevant information is important to any demographic, but especially this one. Convenience is absolutely key for Millennials and the best way to engage with them is to make it as convenient as possible. This means on their terms – mainly through social media and/or mobile platforms. Today most news breaks on Twitter and Reddit first, for example. This is the era of live sharing and streaming, so think of that when you consider what else is competing for your audience’s attention.
With this in mind, it’s important to remember that this generation went through adolescence with loads of access to technology. They want new content on a consistent basis. Timing is important. You can’t let your blog go dormant for weeks and if you’re going to use social media marketing, you need to update consistently. It’s also important to understand the current pulse of their world, by staying in touch with trends and topics. Smart marketing and advertising are responsive to these fluctuating factors, but it takes time and resources to offer this kind of real-time responsiveness.
You can engage with the timing of your target audience by not only using social media and mobile platforms but by investing time and manpower to staying on top of trends. A well-timed Tweet or timely mobile advertising campaign can engage your millennial audience and show them that you’re just as in tune with the culture as they are.
#4 Showcase your value (and values)
Millenials have a natural distrust of corporations, so they tend to shy away from big brands with big pocket books. They prefer brands that have demonstrated some type of corporate social responsibility and those that have taken the time to create content that they care about. They also prefer brands that have demonstrated social proof – having connections to people that they care about. If people or even other brands that they care about like a brand, they’ll be more likely to follow suit and buy.
Leverage this by showcasing your value on your website, through content and on social media. Testimonials, case studies, customer spotlights, social sharing and other forms of social proof can help build instant trust with your prospects. They will trust the opinions of friends and peers more than authorities or the company itself. You may even want to extend your social proof efforts to include some kind of user-submitted contest that generates new content. For example, running an Instagram marketing campaign, including a photo contest can get more millennials involved.
In addition to showcasing your value through social proof, you also need to showcase your values and prove that you have a social responsibility. The group will place more trust in your company if you have some sort of involvement in the community or a special interest. For example, if 10% of your proceeds go to an environmental group, let your audience know! Millennial generation members are engaged with companies that are engaged with the world around them. Work on these themes and stories of how you give back to show your target audience that you aren’t all talk, no action.
#5 Get niche with your marketing
Advertisers and companies tend to think of millennials as one large group that they can target all at once. However, you can’t be too general when it comes to this generational group. There are in fact multiple sub-groups, levels of income and other differences within millennials. If you try to go too broad with your marketing, you’ll appear to be selling to your audience, which they will avoid. You need to prove that you are in touch with what they understand so you can engage with them or – even more importantly – get found by them in the first place.
Instead of broadly marketing to millennials, narrow your engagement strategies and target specific niche audiences within the larger market. In addition, you should interact with your audience on an individual level whenever possible. While this won’t guarantee that your content will engage every single millennial, it will ensure that it is able to reach at least part of your target audience and more than you’d be able to reach with traditional methods.
Personalization is one way that you can reach out to millennials. Make sure that your recruitment phase of marketing clearly explains what is in it for them. From the start, use your touchpoints to make current customers feel special. You can do this through several different methods. First, make being a part of your community something prestigious and exclusive. For example, call your fans a special name and encourage them to use your hashtag on social media (engaging more social proof). Next, provide some incentives to being a part of your community like access to limited-edition merchandise, exclusive events and other perks can get your millennial generation audience more engaged in your brand and eventually become brand ambassadors themselves.
That’s the ultimate goal after all – to get engaged buyers who turn around and evangelize your brand to others. That’s exactly what millennials can offer. Since they are the most socially engaged of the generations, they can become natural brand ambassadors that can use influencer marketing to draw in even more prospects.
To Sum Up
Marketing to the millennial generation requires a new and more strategic approach to audience retaining and engagement. You need to keep in mind what the world has been like for this generational group and respond to the way that they like to interact with the world. Meet them where they are at, on platforms that they care about, and deliver the right message to the group. Make it as personal as possible, and show off your values. By embracing the millennial generation for who they are, and avoiding stereotypes of who they aren’t, you can continually engage the market and build brand ambassadors that can send you sales for the long term.
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