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How to interact with Millennials without alienating your audience

It's incredibly important that you don't miss out on how to interact with Millennials (also referred to as Gen Y) – this age group is responsible for an estimated $200bn spending power alone.
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There are a few reasons why you want to interact with Millennials, who are defined as being born between the years 1982 and 2002 (roughly). They account for 75.4m people globally and have now surpassed the Baby Boomer generation as the largest generation ever created.

However, it can be hard to appeal to a target market who grew up with a hyper awareness of advertising and its wiles. Where the marketing of many retail brands has evolved to cater to the Baby Boomer generation, Millennials hold different things aloft when it comes to how they choose to spend their hard earned money. We’ve put together some key ideas about how to best interact with Millennials.

Use influencers

Millennials may often be influenced by traditional celebrities, but they prefer to seek out social media influencers on channels such as Instagram and YouTube. These influencers are perceived as more “real”, authentic and personally accessible. These influencers maintain huge followings on YouTube, Instagram or blogging sites, and often represent their demographic by sharing their thoughts or lifestyle posts.

You can take advantage of this direct-to-customer interaction by partnering with social media influencers; asking them to review or recommend your product or service in a way which will be perceived as natural. Rather than using a traditional spokesperson sharing a message written by your brand, which can come across as a sales spiel, influencers ideally lead to organic sales and referrals.

Back a cause

A key trait of Millennials is their passion for, and affinity with, cause-oriented brands. This demographic likes to be part of something bigger than themselves, and often strive to promote social change. This in turn forms the basis for many of the commercial choices that they make. An essential part of company branding, and certainly in attracting Millennials, is developing a company ethos that elicits positive reactions about your company.

If you want interact with Millennials then find ways to incorporate your company mission statement into the brand or marketing message – they like it when you share your social responsibility. Businesses can leverage this characteristic by providing ethically sourced or produced products, or by linking products into a social outreach initiative. For example, donating to charities that help people in need for every product sold or planning a community day to help locally.

Orphans for Orphans provides a common ground for communities to gather, focussing on education and activities

Orphans for Orphans provides a common ground for communities to gather, focussing on education and activities

Concepts such as these should pervade your entire brand, including website design, promotions and any social media strategy and messaging. Millennials often value interaction with authentic or “human” companies. So be honest and genuine in your marketing and this should help encourage Millennials to partner with your brand and feel like they can get involved and make a difference. Two excellent examples are Toms shoes, and Gandy’s flip flops, who run an initiative called Orphans for Orphans.

Use more visual social media, e.g. Instagram, Snapchat and Pinterest

Social media has seen an explosion in the last decade, with platforms like Instagram and Snapchat now becoming an integral part of life for many. As such, it’s now necessary to incorporate these channels into your marketing strategy. A mere social media presence isn’t enough; Millennials are unlikely to seek out your brand, especially if you aren’t engaging on platforms in the correct way.

If you want to interact with Millennials then you constantly need to utilise social media. More than 70 per cent are daily social media users, in large part on their mobile phones, which means savvy brands with a strong presence can make a big impression. A great way to start this process is by using relevant and popular hashtags, asking engaging questions that prompt user interaction, incorporating popular memes (although use caution with this one!) or running competitions.

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Make sure that everything you post is in line with your brand

The important element of any successful social media advertising campaign is to be subtle and try not to sell things as overtly as a traditional campaign: social media for this demographic is above all aspirational, which leads neatly on to the next point. Being able to set aside a small amount of your marketing budget for online campaigns, free products or extra design or photography work is important. If this is difficult to expense then consider applying for a small business loan.

Be a teacher, but don’t overly sell

In a world filled with products, services and experiences, it’s understandable everyone suffers from FOMO (fear of missing out). That’s what brands are banking on. However, if you want to interact with Millennials then recognise how they are being sold something everywhere they look – and it’s starting to have a negative effect on how brands are perceived.

With a constant stream of offers and options it can become easy to  feel jaded. In fact, over 75 per cent of Millennials admit they distrust traditional advertising.

To be heard above the din you need to supply content that is unique, entertaining or provides value. Creating engaging content proves your expertise in your area and encourages readers to look to your brand as a learning resource. This approach works well with inbound marketing strategies like blogging, social media and SEO.

Millennials spend more than 25 hours a week surfing the web, therefore creating great content that is eye catching and worth sharing will foster loyalty and is an effective way to subtly sell your product.

When the time comes that a reader/potential consumer is far enough along their buying journey, they will think of your product and you will be at the top of their list.

Rob Straathof is CEO at Liberis

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