The sweet spot for marketers is becoming more elusive. For an industry that has prized the coveted 18-49 demographic since what seems like the dawn of time, a lot is changing. This changing dynamic is forcing marketers to go to greater lengths to attract this new prized group: millennials.
Millennials (a.k.a. Generation Y, Generation Next, Net Generation) are 18-34 year olds who are driving the marketplace with their high purchasing power. This segment is comprised of the most connected (yet also fragmented) groups of 80 million Americans imaginable. They're connected in that 97 percent own computers, 94 percent own a cellphone, and three out of four are rabid social networkers. However, they're also fragmented: When considering the torch-bearers of the past (boomers, Gen X), millennials are a far more difficult group for marketers to reach because they don't abide by the broadcast rules. They're reading newspapers less and less and, while they're still watching TV, they're absorbing the content on their own time rather than as scheduled. These factors make millennials an interesting market to target.
Use the following three tips while mingling with millennials:
- Open a dialogue, not a dictatorship. Reaching this group must begin with social media. Social media is usually treated as being synonymous with "social networking," but it truly is the medium used for social interaction. The whole marketing paradigm of drawing audience attention to ads laden with marketers' messages is gone. Try to connect with consumers on a personal level. Interaction is the reason people join social networks in the first place, but they don't want to feel like they are being spammed with irrelevant promotional information from the brands they know and love.
- Build communities. Social media has skyrocketed in popularity. For example, Facebook now accounts for more page views than the mighty Google. It's becoming a dominant medium for people to educate, communicate, and interact with brands and make life decisions. As a result, people don't need to actively search for content because it's being passed along at such a rapid rate through their social media connections.
"Right now" is an important gratification for this generation, and millennials rely more on online research and friend referrals than they do advertising. Marketers must take heed of these indicators and employ ways in which their message is carried by users who then disseminate it through their circle of friends. To be successful at this, it's important to mingle with (rather than market to) millennials online.
- Let the users do the legwork. If you engage millennials as equals online and provide quality content, it's more likely that they will share your brand's message with their friends. While people remain skeptical of branded messages, more than 90 percent of online consumers report that they trust recommendations from people they know. If you can make your brand relevant to millennials, they will take it upon themselves to spread your message.
Social media marketing is still in its infancy, but it is vital as an extended community of your brand. It is living and breathing, and must be nurtured properly. Most brands are making a lot of investments to create a presence in the social media space of Facebook and Twitter. In an attempt to reach millennials, marketers today are acting in a "land grab" mode, trying to build up Facebook fans and Twitter followers. The big thing that has been forgotten is return on investment. What is a Facebook fan worth? And is a Facebook fan the equivalent of a real-life fan? Given their hyperactivity online and the eternalness of the internet, millennial fans of your brand could produce an even greater return.
Vijay Pullar is the founder and CEO of SocialTwist.
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