Millennials are ruining everything. They don't behave like other consumers. Their expectations for engagement are higher than others. They want to be valued and they expect companies to be transparent about their intentions. For brands everywhere, the millennial generation is changing the way they market online, how they engage across social media and the digital tools they employ.
Living out Loud
We spoke with Dave Hawley, senior marketing director and Tony McRoberts, senior director strategic accounts at SocialChorus to learn more about how millennials are influencing a new era of digital marketing.
Millennials have grown up being continuously marketed to — from Saturday morning television to the soda machines at their schools. They know how it works and they're not buying it. They know most marketers have something hidden up their sleeves, so they're naturally skeptical of "too good to be true" claims. They're no dummies. They do their research and they'll know if you say one thing and do another.
Additionally, millennials are no stranger to online communications. They've always known email, texting and instant messaging. They've been living out loud for sometime on Facebook and Twitter. They practically invented the selfie. They are transparent and expect others to be as well, especially brands.
It isn't that Millennials don't want to be marketed to; it's that they want to be marketed to on their terms. They want to be heard. They want to be valued. We all want that, but they're the only generation to have the nerve to demand it. And they're willing to sacrifice a deal of privacy to get it. But for millennials, it isn't much of a sacrifice. Remember, this generation had to grow up fast — many were only 10 years old on 9/11 and ever since the Iraq War, the war in Afghanistan, Hurricane Katrina, the Haiti Earthquake, the housing crisis and now the economy have been their reality. They've been taking off their shoes in airport security for most of their lives, so giving marketing companies a peak into their online search history isn't a big deal, especially if it results in a better online experience.
What Does This Mean for Digital Advertisers?
For digital marketers, it means more dialogues and fewer monologues. It means the end of disruptive ads. It means being responsive and being present across a plethora of digital channels, from mobile to social. It means being cool without trying to be cool.
Though there was rumor of a mass exodus of millennials from Facebook once their parents arrived, Hawley and McRoberts still agree that it's still a main platform used to peruse to see what people are saying and doing. But they use it differently than a lot of us. They're trained not to look at the side margin and they don't know what sponsored stories are.
Millennials use Twitter as a forum to communicate with friends, even if they've never met IRL. Word of Mouth is strong and a recommendation from a fan or follower can hold just as much weight as one from a close friend or family member. Communications with brands they trust should be unique and offer a valuable experience.
Images are popular and can easily capture the moment better than words ever could. Likewise, it's a way to consume messages from brands quicker than posts or status updates can.
Short videos produced on Vine or Instagram can be valuable provided they are humorous or offer utility, like quick tips and tricks. A few years ago, user-generated content promised a holy grail of marketing opportunities for brands, but all we got were crappy, shaking videos. Even today, we're still having to train users to hold their phones horizontally when filming. But for millennials, they get it. They're comfortable with the technology and images and videos generated by users are getting better, providing marketers with a low-cost content marketing opportunity.
Over 90% of millennials have a mobile phone and over half of them have a smartphone, with almost 60% of them accessing the mobile internet through those phones. Don't have a mobile-friendly presence? Then the odds of capturing the attention of millennials may not be in your favor.
Millennials Are Setting the New Standard
Millennials are growing up and they'll be setting the new standard of marketing in the digital era. They're not likely to suddenly want more online privacy or become less tech savvy. This is a radical shift for marketers, who have had to develop strategies for older audiences who may have been slow to adapt newer technologies.
For the foreseeable future, digital marketing for millennials will start to become the rule, rather than the exception. As such, brands will have to learn how to become more open, transparent, and conversational with their targeted audience if they want to reap the benefits. And there are benefits. Millennials are loyal and will recommend products they respect and enjoy.
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