It is still too soon to tell if Facebook will suffer a major advertising backlash in the wake of the Cambridge Analytica data harvesting scandal. Anyone with a Facebook account will (should) know Facebook has been following them and their data since they signed up.
After the news broke about Cambridge Analytica, we contacted a number of digital marketing companies to see what they were going to do, particularly given the popularity of Facebook as a channel for marketing to millennials. Surprisingly, we found many of them already investigating other ways to build marketing campaigns in the belief that social networks' role for marketers was already fading. In fact, the majority said that well-founded marketing strategies would continue to dominate as would established marketing techniques.
Here are eight tips they shared for marketing to millennials in the wake of the Facebook revelations.
1. Offer Value-Added Marketing
Dan Lobring is vice president of marketing communications at Chicago-based rEvolution. He said most brand-side marketers and advertisers face the challenge of getting through to millennials in today's hyper-competitive and data sensitive environment. One tenet that holds true for all of marketing, to millennials or otherwise, is you need to add value to the audience you are trying to reach.
Good marketing or advertising isn't just about peppering the audience with ads, on social media or otherwise. “Good marketing or advertising is about giving your audience a reason to care about your brand, showing them the 'why' they should care, and then making their experience as fans/consumers better for it,” he said.
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2. Use Social Media Networks
Matt Edstrom is head of marketing at San Diego, Calif.-based Adigicia Health, said many people had been suffering from online advertising overload before the issue of data harvesting emerged. Due to advertising overload, consumers — especially the millennial demographic — have learned to block out traditional advertising channels, instead relying more heavily on the endorsements of their friends, family, and social influencers. While this has been detrimental to the effectiveness of print, TV, and radio advertising, it has opened tremendous opportunity in the digital social media space. “An effective social media marketing strategy we use to promote our products, obtain referrals, and increase our overall sales is to leverage our target consumers’ own personal network to do our advertising for us. We incentivize our customers to share our product on their personal social accounts, which allows us to tap into their network of friends and family,” he said.
These personal and trust-based social media campaigns have effectively helped amplify our advertising efforts and earning new business through these personal endorsements.
He added that social media-based referral programs have proven to pay big dividends in the current business climate given that the average person spends almost two hours on their various social media accounts a day — with millennials often spending more than two hours on their social media channels.
Sowndarya Kishore, content and social media manager at Dallas-based content marketing specialist Social Animal, shared that the use of social media influencers will become increasingly important for marketers that want to reach a targeted audience. “Influencer marketing is also going to grow in importance with the decline of social media, advertisements," he said.
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3. Don’t Forget Mobile Marketing
With the many breaches in privacy over the past few years social media is falling and failing, according to Kishore. He points out that even though many people are trying to erase their digital footprints, the one thing that is sure to stay is their mobile phone. As a result marketers will still have to use mobile marketing through apps and messages. “Mobile marketing has been on the rise for the past few years and will continue to do so with people using mobiles more than desktops or laptops,” he said.
“With competitors flocking everywhere, marketers have to resort to measures that involve great discounts and coupons to stand out from the crowd. Referral programs are trending right now. Offering one will help marketers widen your target audience,” he said.
4. Use Traditional Content
Millennials have so many devices at their disposal that it can be hard to keep their attention — they are only one click away from the competition. Your website content should be easy to digest; craft copy that can be skimmed and digested by young readers, who don’t have time or patience to read a whole wall of text, James Nuttall, content and outreach specialist, at UK-backed Cuuver, an insurance comparison website.
“Short sentences and plenty of paragraphs make all the difference in making your copy easier to read. Page titles, meta descriptions and subheadings all have beneficial effects on the digestibility of your content. Where possible, implement images and infographics, which will make for a more interesting visual to keep their attention,” he said.
5. Offer Experienced-based Shopping
Bart Mroz is co-founder and CEO of New York City-based digital commerce consultancy SUMO Heavy. He said that millennials are changing the way brands sell products. What is happening, he said, is an industry-wide shift in which outmoded retail models are being displaced by e-commerce, coupled with technology-driven experiential modes of selling.“Brands need to offer more experienced-based shopping to build brand awareness and increase customer loyalty. Millennials love experiences, and experiential marketing is a great way to target this brand savvy demographic. This experience-based shopping has already seen major success, he said.
He cites the example of companies like Warby Parker, Apple and Ulta, who are all building their businesses around allowing customers to experience the brand rather than simply to sell their products. “It's key for marketers to integrate themselves into popular events, festivals, or locations to be successful,” he said.
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6. Use Event Marketing
Social media has always been only one part of a cohesive marketing strategy. The other digital aspects such as answering common questions related to what you do and attracting them via search engines and partnering with other sites that serve your niche in the form of advertising and content still stand strong. “Now if digital blew up entirely, besides traditional print, radio and TV — the biggest places I would be branching out is event marketing, trade shows, and putting on useful events as a company and in conjunction with partners,” he said.
“Wherever the attention, there the marketing dollars should go — although this usually is slow, so if you get there first before competitors you can get cheap attention for years before it gets commoditized and becomes popular.”
7. Meet With People
Beth Griffith is a brand strategist who helps business owners to maximize their brand magnetism so that they can have teams and customers who can't help but promote the company's offerings. She said she has focused primarily on Facebook marketing for the past two years. She said that she has noticed the shift in its effectiveness both before and after the privacy debacle.
Many Millennials are utterly exhausted by the constant inundation of social media in their lives, and have been craving a shift. They are starving for in person connection and experiences instead of another online product or service. “The millennials who are the most likely to part with their cash are finding those they invest with in person. They have invested and seen it not work out - and so now they are leaning into their senses or intuition by actually connecting with the people they want to work with in person this time,” she said.
8. Don’t Give Up
Millenials will likely still find the brands they purchase from on social media, but the ease of them opening their wallets is quickly declining — businesses are going to need to focus on their use of social media for brand awareness far more than direct sales. However before ditching current social media marketing campaigns, said Michael Price, social media director at Dallas-based Ansari, a data-driven marketing solutions provider, it’s important to note that the full impact of users deleting their Facebook profiles is currently unknown. Facebook has not released any details regarding the number of users that have deleted their accounts, nor have they released details regarding changes in user activity.
“That being said, it is important that marketers maintain an objective approach to their strategy and tactics. Performance must be the guiding light. Since the Facebook Cambridge Analytica scandal has begun, we (Ansira) have not seen any negative measurable impact on performance for our clients Facebook ads. That being said, there isn’t a correlation that we have been able to identify performance and Facebook user activity,” he said.
Finally, he points out that Facebook, and social media more broadly, is still by far the best place to reach this demographic, as social media continues to be the place they spend a majority of their time online.
As Facebook continues to take appropriate measures to regain user confidence in their privacy policies, this will have negative consequences for advertisers that are using 3rd party audience data via Facebook’s Managed Custom Audiences platform. “Brands and their respective agencies must now pivot towards 1st party data audiences via CRM, call center data and transactional data,” he said.