Content marketing to millennials can be both challenging and exciting. We are talking of the buzzing generation of those born between the years of 1982 and 2004, who are the most prolific online buyers of all kinds of products. When this generation was born and growing up, the Internet was already there – and so this is the first generation of “pure digital natives” we have on this earth. They are also often referred to as the “me generation,” “Gen Y” or the “selfie generation”.
Their numbers have grown to swell over 76 million in the US alone. They’re also believed to be the largest and most influential generation to date, with the most buying power compared to any other older generation, with at least $200 billion at their disposal. How do we, as marketers, speak to such go-getter Content Marketing Audiences, without feeling intimidated by their scale, energy levels and massive purchasing power? We have to first tune into their wavelengths …
5 truths about millennials and what they really value!
Millennials have been sometimes labeled wrongly as lazy, temperamental, and lacking loyalty and satisfaction at work. This is absolutely not the way to judge them if we want to appeal to their extraordinary intelligence and passions for life. What they actually want is a full life, with lots of variety, and they move on fast if they fail to get the specific satisfaction they crave.
As content marketers we need to beware of being condescending or holding “holier than thou” views of millennials. It’s time to debunk the myths that surround them. They are such a huge force online now, that they demand their rights to more realistic perception of their likes and dislikes, their driving motivations and their online behaviors.
There are five characteristics of millennials that all content marketers need to understand deeply …
#1: Millennials don’t trust advertising – they trust online sources and social media friends instead.
Let’s begin with some hard facts: as many as 84% of millennials just don’t trust traditional advertising. Closest friends online are ranked as the most trustworthy source. A mind-addling 91% of millennials buy things purely based on recommendations from friends. 35% of millennials cite websites as among their preferred sources of information before making any purchase.
In an interesting study by the McCarthy Group, nearly half (47%) of millennials said the Internet was the one thing they could not think of living without.
Another interesting bit of information for marketers: while scrolling through their Facebook News Feeds, for instance, millennials prefer scrolling right past the sponsored content and ads and don’t read these at all, let alone click on them. However, if they see a friend using a new gadget or trying a new restaurant, and they comes across an ad for that, they’re more likely to stop scrolling to find out more. Behavior online is totally conditioned by “peer influence”.
Content marketers who are looking to buy Facebook ads need to think twice. They may need to co-opt “millennials-as-influencers” who will get seen by the rest as trying out new brands, so that follower-millennials will stop their Facebook streams to read the related ads, and not scroll past with disdain.
#2: Millennials love the brands that give them 4 things – entertainment, attention, connection and experiences.
Millennials want a far more holistic experience from companies – beyond just good products and services. This becomes evident from several leading studies. A study from Casual Living found that a brand’s ability to make a millennial smile is 33% more important than it is to an older generation. Bringing smiles to millennial faces seems like the new content marketing goals we all need to include!
Another study from Bazaarvoice says millennials want brands to allow them to make their own voice heard. Nearly 60% feel that companies should offer more ways for them to share their opinions online. Content marketers have to get used to this idea, without fearing brickbats along with the bouquets.
More interestingly, millennials seem to see “shopping” as a social activity – part of the joy of shopping with friends is spending time in their company, browsing together, agreeing with or vetoing mutual choices, having fun. Added to this, nearly 78% of millennials say they would prefer to spend money on on “experiences” than just goods.
As a content marketer you have be careful how exciting you make the shopping experience. For example, can you make collaborative shopping online possible, can you foster “chats-with-friends-while-shopping” as a standard way to buy …it takes bit of different thinking to get away from tactics like price discounts and up-sells and cross-sells, to start designing “experiences into ecommerce”.
#3: Millennials are focused on saving money, despite having such immense buying power and appearing to splurge.
Okay, here’s a bit of a shocker. You would tend to think that a generation with so much love for good living, and the endless itch to buy, is actually never savings conscious. But millemnials are so savings-oriented, it would surprise you!
Why is this so? Perhaps it’s because millennials are earning 20% less than their parents did at this age in their lives. The average salary of someone between 25-34 years’ old is about $40,000 less than what their parent earned at their comparable age. Millennials also own less property, and they’re mostly renting a home. They hire cabs rather than buy cars.
At the same time, since the Internet is rife with choices of products that satisfy their taste for novelty, innovation, fun, entertainment, and living the good life, they have to make less become more. They’ve learnt to develop the ability to stretch money into a fine art.
One of the ways they make money go a long way is to save a lot more than their parents did. They save so much, in fact, that one in six millennials have already saved $100,000. by the age of 28 years. All in all, even as they like to spend a lot, they don’t spend recklessly. They are conscious of buying “value”.
As a content marketer, you’d do well to appeal to this instinct of millennials to be “value-responsible”, even as they buy a lot. Show them both the short term and long term value of the things you sell, so they see the full value they are getting with the purchase. Don’t use buying-baits. Use buying arguments that are sound. They are young people but with wise heads.
#4: Millennials read lots of blogs before they buy … they educate themselves and are not impulse-shoppers
With access to such truckloads of information online, millennials research and self-educate voraciously. 23% of millennials say they like to research before they buy something. 80% of millennials research via use their smartphones, while 68.9% go on to read and digest a lot of product reviews. 33% of millennials say they prefer to read detailed blog posts before they buy (reading long form content is not what we would associate with them, but we’re wrong!)
On the whole, millennials are definitely not impulse-shoppers. They like to research and read, to feel empowered before buying. They like to get information from many different sources. And in the end, what tilts the balance is peer-validation on the social media.
A small brand I am associated with tried a small experiment to validate this millennial purchase behavior. When they added a system by which friends could comment on the wish lists of millennials who wanted to buy things, the percentage of sales went up by nearly 34%. Allowing them to put their buying choices into a wish list, and then getting all their friends to give a thumbs up to their choices, made such a huge difference!
#5: Millennials are conscious of health and the environment – and they love brands supporting worthy causes.
Among the products that millennials seem to spend more money on are good health, fitness, healthy foods, environmental solutions, and eco-conscious products. This is on one side. It confirms the perception of millennials as a “responsible generation”.
On the other hand, simply giving a great value proposition or offering a unique product won’t do. You need something extra. And that extra must most likely be “support for a compelling social cause”. Millennials feel very strongly about supporting causes with the money they spend.
Providing them with an additional “social cause incentive” there is a chance that millennials will love your brand and begin to see it as an extension of the good in themselves. Cause marketing is a very beautiful way to get millennials to buy for a good reason, and feel bonded to your brand as you give them a platform for this.
The psychology of successfully marketing to millennials – infographic!
One of the best infographics I came across, is this one below from University of Southern California, on how to market successfully to millennials, using a deep psychological understanding of them.
Every pixel of this infographic is truly insightful, don’t you think?
Infographic courtesy: University of Southern California
The connection between millennials and UGC (user-generated content) – statistics!
We must thank Lexy Wright for her excellent article “The 50 User Generated Content Stats You Need to Know” where she has compiled some eye-popping statistics on the way millennials are attracted to, and strongly influenced by, user-generated content (UGC) of friends and peers online … rather than by brand-created content. Just look at these numbers!
- 59% of millennials claim that they use UGC to inform their purchase decisions about major electronics. That’s followed by cars (54%), major appliances (53%), mobile phones (46%), hotels (45%), and travel plans (40%).
- 65% of social media users from ages 18–24 evaluate information that is shared on social networks when making a purchasing decision.
- Millennials (ages 25 and above) are the biggest content drivers — contributing over 70% of all UGC.
- 84% of millennials report that UGC on company websites has influence on what they buy.
- 68% of millennials say that user-generated content is generally a good indicator of the quality of a brand or service.
- 86% of Millennials say that UGC is a positive indicator of a brand quality.
- 71% of Millennials engage user-generated content daily.
- Millennials find UGC to be 35% more memorable than content that came from mainstream sources.
- 64% of millennials say companies should offer more ways to share their opinions online.
- User-generated content is 20% more influential to millennials in their choice of purchases than any other media.
- 74% of Millennials said that UGC inspired a purchase decision when booking travel – over professional photos.
- 83% of Millennials said that UGC inspired a purchase decision when buying electronics – over professional photos.
- Millennials use 2 to 3 devices at least once a day to consume UGC.
- 98% of millennials are more likely to engage with a friend’s post over a brand post.
- 64% of Millennials recommend a product or service on social media at least once a month.
- Millennials spend 18 hours per day with media, and 30% of that time is spent looking at user-generated media.
4 ways to do content marketing to the dynamic millennials!
Millennials are a zippy energetic generation – extremely savvy with technology and devices, but with short attention spans and fleeting interests. When they like what you have to say, they really go for it. When they dislike what you have to say, you will surely hear about it. They don’t seem to leave much for marketers to wonder about, because they tend to upfront and forthright.
One thing to remember when marketing to millennials with your content is that you have to follow them, because they follow their bliss. Here are 4 ways you can nail your content marketing to millennials, by being where they are, and giving them what they are looking for.
#1: You absolutely have to get your mobile content right. Millennials and their mobiles are inseparable.
The millennial generation aren’t a TV-addicted group. Instead, they get almost all of their information on their smartphones, tablets and any other new wearable devices. Since about 85% of U.S. millennials own smartphones (and it’s much more in the Asian countries) it goes without saying that you have to improve your mobile marketing strategy to target this generation.
Some ways to do this are: ensure your blog posts and pages are mobile-optimized; don’t let over-heavy graphics bog down mobile content; create clear calls-to-action that are touch-friendly; use gaming if you can, as a tactic for creating interactivity; and remember that millennials love phone apps.
#2: Social media channels are where your content saturation needs to be at its highest. Millennials live here.
While Facebook and Twitter are still staple favorites, Instagram is getting real hot with millennials. You will see that a lot of large and small brands are now exploiting Instagram to deliver engagement-oriented content and visual storytelling.
Millennials are heavily swayed by peers, friends and influencers when it comes to making buying decisions, and social media is the primary way that they share around their tips and insights about products and services. You can’t afford to have a weak social strategy if you are targeting this racy-pacy audience segment.
#3: Millennials can smell fakeness from a distance, and they’ll steer past you if you’re not 100% authentic.
Millennials are believed to spend about 25 hours per week on the Internet, and they don’t hang around idly – they consume vast amounts of content in the time spent online. They are constantly browsing social media, blogs, and websites because “knowing things” makes them feel tremendously “empowered”. Similarly, the ability to speak out is also “empowering”, which is why they love commenting on information, forwarding bits of information with their two-bits added, and handing out feedback and opinion, at the drop of a hat, when allowed. Get two of them together arguing with a third one, and soon you have a special interest group or community of 15-20 millennials forming around this nucleus.
To appeal with content to the millennials, therefore, you have to be very interactive yourself, and not a mere spectator content marketer. You need to speak their language – and most of all you need to be transparent and authentic. If you try masquerading on the forums as a participant, while surreptitiously trying to drive self-promotion, you will be discovered and shunned. Since millennials depend so much on public opinion as their sources of genuine and reliable information, authenticity is the basic minimum they expect to be able to get from you in return for some trust in you. And their trust is really hard-won.
#4: Make sure your site and blog and ecommerce stores are safe to use and protected against cyber hacks and attacks.
Groups like the millennials, who spend an awful lot of money, purchasing all manner of products online, tend to take cyber security for granted – and if they come across glaring technological safety glitches, or compromizing practices in online commerce, it makes them go crazy mad. Many a seriously good brand has suffered a reputation-shredding online, after a seemingly small informational confidentiality setback.
I cannot emphasize this point enough. You get only one chance with the millennials to make a good first impression. And blaming technology is never accepted as an excuse by this digital generation, that believes you should have had a backup for the backup!
So what are your thoughts on this topic? Do share!
This post is incomplete without your input. The community of content-marketer solopreneurs would feel galvanized to hear from you … so do share your thoughts on this topic with us, in the comments field below this post.
Other articles in our series “Content Marketing Audiences”:
- My Consumers’ Behaviour Isn’t What Experts Say … What To Believe?
- How Solopreneurs Can Hit Bull’s-Eye With Their Target Audiences!
- How To Know Your Target Audiences Better By Knowing Yourself Better!