The market is no longer dominated by Boomers. Millennials have risen to the top of America's population ranks according to recent Pew Research findings, amounting to more than 75.4 million individuals and outpacing the slowing 74.9 million-strong contingent of 51-to-69-year-olds.
Millennials are much like their senior counterparts in their fight for identity in an ever-expanding, conflicted world. But as the younger generation grows, the remaining demographic is forced to adapt to and adopt evolving approaches to commerce and the 'Millenni-lingo' that drives PR and marketing. Whether you're just starting out or looking to advance your enterprise, here are six tips to survive and thrive in the info-overload era.
1. Get on social media
Most of your customers are interacting via social media, be it through Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, Snapchat, or Instagram. It allows them a real-time forum for feedback, and any feedback--good, bad, horrendous, and everything in between--is great. First, the people who follow such a commenter will see your brand mentioned, so there's free, wide exposure. Second, the faster you are at rectifying a bad experience in plain sight, the better it is for your company. It serves as both a valuable tool for improvement and an excellent way to communicate the integrity of your brand. And with Millennials, authenticity reigns supreme.
2. Roll with real-time data
Social media platforms have analytics built in. Use them! Look at which messages are getting the most views (engagement) and try to craft future messages and stories accordingly. Examine the tone, words, and any additional elements you used. But don't fall into the trap of becoming monotonous in messaging--mix it up. You want to show your world in real-time, ebbing and flowing. Use social platforms' scheduling tools to strategically set messages (if you're a coffee shop, pitch first thing in the morning; lunch spots should aim for 11 a.m., and so on). Sprinkle in a quick message, preferably with a great visual element, throughout the day.
3. Share the love
Millennials want to see that the company they're supporting is doing more than pocketing all the proceeds. Genuine generosity goes a long way, especially when it engenders positive impact on a greater community level--a core millennial value.
Take it from Nelson Brothers CEO Pat Nelson, whose company specializes in college student housing and who has to be expert in understanding millennials. Nelson says building your reputation as an "it" brand means more than promising cool gifts. "We reached out to employees," Nelson says. "One created a line of clothing called Foxtrot that he was trying to get off the ground. We gave him an order of 10,000, and got Foxtrot circulating from Oregon to Arizona." Then, of course, share your love-sharing via social media!
4. Visualize this
Statistics show that visual elements--pictures, graphics, and videos especially-- exponentially accelerate engagement in messaging. A recent study in advertising revealed that content containing compelling images receive 94 percent more views than content without. That's huge.
Videos are exploding in popularity, and simply including a video on your homepage can increase sales by 80 percent. With the right concept, something quirky and funny but not over-the-top, you might strike Internet gold. Nelson Brothers did just that with their grandma campaign: videos featuring a grandmother listing her grievances with the company (i.e., their services are so good and affordable that her grandchildren are moving out of her basement). "She's the most interesting mascot in the world, and the series has gotten over a million views. Nobody gets that in student housing," says Nelson.
5. Know your audience
Cyberstrangers become loyal supporters when you demonstrate an alignment with their values. Why are you in business (aside from making money)? Did your passion for mountain biking compel you to launch a new line? Why a new line, and what makes yours better? This approach opens the channel for an individual to feel a connection to you, especially if you're actively engaging with them or anyone else who gives you a mention, like, or criticism of any sort. You are the customer you will attract, so it's important to actually be that client.
6. Think smartphone
A majority of Internet searches are launched from mobile platforms rather than via desktop or laptop, and that trend is here to stay. Success in today's digital world means adopting a mobile-first approach, which is a journey that involves prioritizing smartphone display over traditional desktop-based design. In PR, this often means shrinking your introduction and getting to the meat of an article quickly to accommodate smartphone scrolling. You want your customer experience to be as user-friendly and accessible to anyone who has a smartphone, and these days, that's just about everyone.
Technology is shaping the marketing landscape, and millennials are shaping technology. It's easy to get overwhelmed by the prospect of shifting your strategy toward a social-media-centric campaign, but it's not as daunting a process as one would think. Keeping pace with real-time marketing is a skill that comes with practice and time, certainly. But even a small step toward social-media marketing will improve your overall success. The momentum will follow.