Part 2 of marketing to millennials: social media & content

Posted by Chris Woods on 7 Oct, 2015
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In part one of this series we explored a fundamental shift in marketing for brands with consumers in the 18-35 age bracket. With the proliferation of mobile and changing habits, your marketing strategy needs to change to keep up. Find out how with part two which looks at the social and content changes you can make to better engage with the millennials.

It wouldn’t be news for me to tell you that technology has changed us. But it’s only when you stop to reflect on the vast cultural changes in our society that their depth becomes truly apparent. Not just the changes that come from the use of technology making life easier, or the ease of data access, the changes to us as individuals and as a collective, how we now quantify value, for products and services, but also for ourselves and the quality of our lives.

Ok, let’s rewind slightly. Einstein himself often referred to the future as a scary place which will reduce our capability to interact with one another from a human perspective due to our reliance on tech. Now, anyone who has walked into the back of someone who has stopped dead in their tracks in the middle of a busy high street to send a ‘tweet’ will understand that in some ways, Einstein was right to fear the future. I mean, who’s been to a pub quiz lately? Anything short of a network jammer and you’re looking at top marks for every team with a single smartphone between them. As for romance… safe to say it’s all but dead in the traditional sense with charming pick-up lines and acts of chivalry replaced by a left or right swipe of the thumb, dependent on instant judgement formed via a snapshot profile.

The millennial audience, those born from the 80s onwards, have grown up in a world in which affordable tech and fast internet access even on mobile devices is standard. Children as young as three and four are using touch screen interfaces to watch their favorite cartoons on tablet devices. In part one we explored how this modern day audience access the internet and how their consumption habits have changed. But the changes run deeper than this. It’s not just how modern day consumers do what they do, it’s the fundamental changes to their outlook and value system which make for more interesting reading.

The average millennial checks Facebook 14 times per day. Clocking up on average an incredible 2+ hours of social media platform interaction per day! This is compared with the general overall average of 1.5 hours. Over 1 billion users now have Facebook profiles worldwide. With this reliance on social media, and the management of one’s own online profile, millennials have become the masters of self-promotion. Now we may look at that as a positive thing, but we’re not talking about manners and interview skills here. We’re talking about selective, digital self-promotion. With a social pressure to portray a happy and successful life. Photoshop skills of course come in handy!

Cutting through the noise, on paper millennials as a generalized group are essentially narcissists.

This is the generation that brought us the ‘selfie’ after all. Taking a picture of yourself for the purpose of sharing with others. It’s even been added to the dictionary! In Victorian era Britain this would have been considered borderline mental illness, but this type of self-promotion is now a standard part of the social landscape for millions of people.

There are some positives to this of course, predominantly for the health, beauty and fashion industries. The need to portray a positive self-image has led to a rise in the importance of an active and healthy lifestyle among millennials. It has even led them to be 20% less likely to take up smoking than the previous generation.

So, the modern audience feels more compelled to take greater care of themselves. That’s good. But this is a positive hidden within a depth of challenges millennials hold for marketers. In comparison to the previous generation, millennials reject traditional hard working values in favor of feeling they are entitled to something better. Celebrity culture and dotcom millionaire success stories are super charged by social media pressure to live the most successful life possible. This has led the millennial audience to believe they deserve something better. As a result of all this, the millennial generation challenge everything. Brand loyalty and credibility as we know it is being replaced by a battleground of brands bombarding social media platforms in the quest for ‘likes’ and ‘follows’.

All of this means we as marketers and brands are on the verge of a big change and I’ll tell you why…

Almost 60% of social media users like or follow brands and products via their social media platforms. 60% of over a billion worldwide users is a big figure. Almost 40% of these people say that the single reason for following a brand or product is down to some kind of incentive or promotional benefit being provided at the time of liking/following.

As internet users we have experienced some transitions in how we see and use the web. In the early days of the web, particularly as broadband and faster speeds became available and internet penetration reached early peaks, we entered an ‘information overload’ period.

We all go crazy, websites galore. We want everything online and we produce a universe of unquantifiable amounts of data all accessible via the internet. Great, right? Then we move into the current period - the social media period - and we now have our own web space within which we can hoard all the data and information we want as a reflection of our chunk of the internet. We add thousands of friends, even people we hated at school just to get our numbers up. We like everything we have a remote interest in from books and movies to celebrities, cartoon characters and even Oreos!

We hand out likes and follows without any thought of consequence because it’s new and exciting. Brands rack up follows and quantify their popularity via these numbers. Here’s where the change comes in.

We must have all seen it at least once on our Facebook at one time or another. We all have that friend that posts a status along the lines of: “I’ve just had a huge Facebook friend clear out. So if you’re reading this then consider yourself one of the lucky ones” or something equally pretentious. Funnily enough this action is often followed by my own de-friending action! But actually these guys are just loud-mouthed examples of what’s to come. De-friending and more importantly, de-liking and de-following of brands is going to be the next social media trend.

You see, we are now slowly emerging from the social media period of our journey with our relationship to the World Wide Web and we’re entering a sort of ‘interest or individual period’. As online consumers we’re growing up and we realize that this torrent of information we receive on a daily basis online is just too much. We want the web to be a source of information that is useful to us and that matters to us as an individual. These generic blanket posts from brands and advertisers are just noise and we want a truly personalized experience. So expect to see users opting out of following brands who don’t give them this.

Now this might all sound a bit doom and gloom for marketers, but that’s not the case. Marketers just need to advance their practice in line with their consumer’s increasing online maturity. I have compiled some of my tips for adapting your approach to social media and general content production to get you ahead of the game early on.

Get more personal with social media advertising

Now this sounds obvious doesn’t it? Social media is the most personal of platforms available to marketers so how can you fail to be personal? The issue is that it’s taken for granted. If you reach someone on social media you’re targeting them on a personal level. But are you providing them with a personalized message that’s as relevant to them as possible?

With the depth of targeting options available to marketers on social media platforms particularly Facebook, look at your total audience and then think how you can separate them into smaller niche groups. Some are obvious, male and female, perhaps an age split at a variable you know from your own intelligence has a bearing on why this audience likes your brand/product. But then look further, split those groups by interests and by geography and create advertising and messaging tailored to each group instead of blanketing them all with one default campaign. 

Your audience then receives far more relevant messaging, far more likely to personally resonate with them. Your engagement rates will rise as a result of your efforts.

A SHARE is worth more than a LIKE

Less a tip and more a useful motto to live by when creating content for social media and quantifying your success. Liking is easy. It’s a very soft engagement. I ‘like’ the look of a Big Mac on a billboard, it doesn’t mean I want one or that I’m in any way an advocate for them. Sharing on the other hand? This is a user taking content and choosing to directly advocate it to their peer group. This holds a much deeper indication of how well the content has been received. At the end of the day isn’t this the beauty of social media platforms? Paying for a set amount of media but producing something so compelling that your audience shares it for you, for free. Organic social media advertising, that sort of viral effect, should be something we all strive to achieve with our campaigns.

Snacking vs long form content

We’re not too much to blame for this one, it’s kind of a natural evolution but something we need to try to now resist and correct. With the dawn of mobile internet and consumption on smaller screens as well as Twitter training us to write in 140 character bursts, we have got ourselves stuck in a rut of creating snackable and short content. Quick pieces of content we can skim through while stuck in an awkward lift journey or while flicking through social media timelines at work.

Snackable content has its place. After all, it makes sense that we want to get short and easy to digest snippets of information to our audiences when we’re playing the social media game and knocking out multiple posts per day. The danger here is balance. All this snackable content is just too shallow. What happens when a consumer who is genuinely passionate about your brand/product/service wants more than just to skim the surface? What we need to remember is that successful brands and businesses will have consumers with genuine interest in more than just marketing material. These people will read three page articles and reviews. They will watch 10-15-20 minute videos instead of a quick 30 second ad. It’s the brands who can balance exposure and depth of valuable content who will win long term and be the most likely to resist the coming de-friending craze.

Attention is going to be your new measure of success

We’re all familiar enough now with basic web metrics and how to define success via CTR% and ROI etc. These metrics aren’t going anywhere from a straightforward performance perspective. For bigger branding success, we’re going to need to start moving on from simply looking at impressions and click through data, to really looking at how our brand, our content and our functionality is actually holding our audience’s attention.

On a similar vein to the snacking vs long form content point previously, brands and marketers need to start looking at the impact their campaigns are making, not just the size of the exposure earnt. Who really engaged fully with our campaign? Is our new website holding attention? Are users browsing our stock and looking in depth at our products and services? Can we produce marketing material and content which out of the torrent of social media advertising and materials slung at consumers, actually holds their attention? These brands are the ones that consumers will remember and feel have positively contributed to their intake above and beyond another Facebook meme.

Don’t overlook Instagram

Over 400 million global users and over 14 million in the UK alone. Instagram is not just a photography app anymore. It may be owned by Facebook but it is its own standalone social media platform and one that users love. 

Instagram’s timeline is based purely on follows at present and brand posts are equal to individual user connections like friends. This plus the image led interface means posts from brands feel less intrusive and less like ads than they do on other platforms. Running an Instagram account only needs to be as expensive as the cost of a smartphone and your time. The platform is considered to be inspirational and about discovery. Use it as it’s intended to build a personal and inspirational connection with your social media audience.

Change is coming, but in my eyes it’s a very welcome change as online users mature. Marketers may need to step up their game but in the long run, those who do will build much deeper more personal and more valuable connections with their consumers via social media.

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