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Staying Social With Millennials

It’s no secret that today’s teens and twenty-somethings have grown up on social media and see it as an extension of their everyday lives. But retailers who think they can just display a bunch of wares on a social media page and attract Millennial shoppers are sadly mistaken. A panel of five exceptionally bright and well-spoken Millennial consumers ages 16-21 (all offspring of prominent retail IT figures) at the recent Retail ROI “Super Saturday” event in New York gave some frank insight into how Millennials view social media. Retailers can ignore the following nuggets pulled from that commentary at their own risk of social irrelevance with the younger generation.

Think Visual
In a column published last year, I exhorted retailers to follow the example of The Kinks and “Think Visual” when it comes to digital retailing efforts. Old Kinks albums probably don’t mean much to Millennial consumers and their social habits, but video definitely does. All five Millennial panelists agreed that Instagram is their favorite social media network, and several also mentioned Snapchat.

Interestingly, all five agreed Facebook is not relevant to their generation (more on that momentarily), and only the two college-aged panelists even still have Facebook accounts, just to keep in touch with their parents. There was also mixed opinion on the relevance of Twitter to young consumers. If you want to reach Millennials through social media, do it on video-friendly platforms and through visual campaigns.

Aim True
The number one reason all five Millennial panelists gave for their generation’s general lack of interest in Facebook is an excess of spam. Young consumers are incredibly media-savvy and have been bombarded with marketing messaging their entire lives, starting with all the toys and games that tied into the TV shows and movies geared toward them as young children. They are not opposed to receiving marketing messages via social media, but they are opposed to generic messages for products they don’t want or need.

Retailers targeting Millennials with social media efforts need to take extra care they are targeting those efforts correctly. Investments in intelligent marketing solutions that track consumer behavior and preferences, preferably across multiple channels, are essential to avoid turning off potential Millennial customers. Older consumers screen out noise, younger consumers shut it off altogether.

Stay Young
The other reason all Millennial panelists agreed Facebook is not their generation’s choice social network is that it is seen as the social network for their parents. This is not to say retailers should abandon all efforts to reach Millennials through Facebook, but it does mean that retailers must keep a young mindset and be aware of trends among young consumers when designing social marketing campaigns.

Having Millennials as part of your social marketing team is essential, and processes and systems supporting social engagement of Millennials must be lean and agile to allow quick pivots in response to the fickle preferences of teens and twenty-somethings.

Younger generations are always a bit of a mystery to older generations, but mysteries can be solved. And when it comes to social engagement of young consumers, retailers need to apply leading-edge strategies and technologies to become a 21st century version of Sherlock Holmes.


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