Millennials: 5 Social Media & Digital Marketing Insights

How To Market To Millennials  [Research]

Millenial behavior marketers needMillennials, defined as those people born between 1980 and 2001, are emerging as a distinct generation from their boomer parents.

Growing up as digital natives with the Internet and digital devices as an integral part of their lives, this demographic and their behaviors has significant marketing implications, especially for digital and social media where they turn first.

Based on recent research by MTV and presented at the Benchmark conference by market research director Britta Schell and separate research by The Center for Generational Kinetics, Bazaarvoice, and Kelton Research entitled Talking to Strangers: Millennials Trust People over Brands (only in point 4) revealed the following five dominant trends that are critical for marketers who want to understand how to reach and market to millennials.

  1. Have digital etiquette savvy. As the first generation to grow up with social communities and their rise and fall, millennials are digital natives with a built-in understanding of these platforms. The four major guidelines are learn the platform’s rules, pace yourself, avoid controversy online (but it’s okay to be humorous), and guard your future since everything online is permanent. (Source: MTV Research) Actionable marketing implications: It’s critical to understand what your audience needs and when they need it. You must think in terms of actively pacing your social media presence and engagement with millennials. To be considered cool, share in moderation, not too much, not too often.
  2. Seek constant feedback. Millenials are “addicted to feedback”, probably in response to their hovering helicopter parents. MTV’s research revealed that 58% of those surveyed felt more confident when they received feedback and 33% of those surveyed felt disappointed if others don’t respond. Britta Schell dubbed this behavior “Like-a-holism.” (Source: MTV Research) Actionable marketing implications: For marketers, this is a clear message that you must authentically respond to and engage with these prospects, customers and fans! On social media, it’s important to like these fans back.
  3. Actively curate their public persona. Millennials have grown up in a message filled world whether it’s online or offline in real life. They innately understand branding and the value of good spin. As a result, millenials put forward a postive, curated view of themselves on Facebook. They select information based on the image they’re seeking to present to the world regardless of what they do in real life. They’re accustomed to airbrushing their lives to fit this image. MTV found that roughly one out three always modifies their photographs before posting them online. (Source: MTV Research) Actionable marketing implications:  Allow your brand to emulate millennials’ ability to curate an online identity.
  4. Trust the shopping advice of strangers. 84% of millennials check user generated content related to their purchase, a higher rate than other age segments. Many millennials won’t buy regardless of expenditure size if there’s no consumer input. Millennials are more likely to trust other customers over friends and family. They’re three times more likely to turn to social media to get input on the product. (Source: Bazaarvoice) Actionable marketing implications: While millennials understand you have your brand motives, ask for consumer input and integrate it into your brand presentation. Further, listen carefully to millenials and engage them.
  5. Communicate via multiple platforms. Millennials view different communication channels as public and private as well as formal and informal. Texts are private one-to-one exchanges and phone calls are emergency communications worthy of stopping everything for. By contrast, social media is public, although millennials use code to express themselves publically so only their closest friends understand. (Source: MTV Research) Actionable marketing implications: For marketers, this point can be the real hurdle since you can have the right message but use the wrong platform to deliver it.

It’s critical to understand that each generation has its own unique traits based on its shared experiences and events. Millennials are no different. Unlike previous generations, they’ve grown up in a media filled world with computers at their fingertips since they were babies. As marketers, we need to adapt our marketing to meet their needs and desires.

What other millenial findings and related marketing suggestions do you have?

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen

Note: My only access to the MTV research was via Britta Schell’s presentation at the Benchmark Conference. Any mistakes or omissions are mine. This MTV press release appears to reference research similar to the presentation despite its July, 2011 date.

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