Millennials are officially America’s largest generation. According to recently released population estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau, there are approximately 75.4 million Millennials, or citizens 18-34 years of age, in the United States as of 2015. With the Boomer generation in decline, Millennials are expected to remain the dominant generation for decades to come.
As a marketer, why should you care?
The market potential for the Millennial generation is staggering. Currently, U.S. Millennials have over $1 trillion in buying power, a number that Accenture says is expected to grow to $1.4 trillion by 2020.
Now that I have your attention, here’s the rub: Millennials are particular, easily distracted, and more demanding of brands than any other generation, that is, when they choose to engage with them.
The Reality of a Rapidly Decreasing Attention Span and an Environment Overloaded with Noise
Human beings now have a shorter attention span than a goldfish. From 2000 to 2015, or the time period of the mobile revolution, the human attention span has dropped from 12 seconds to just 8 seconds, a 33% decline in a relatively short period. The attention span of the aforementioned goldfish is 9 seconds.
Millennials epitomize this reality. Think of the most popular apps that Millennials use on a daily basis, such as Facebook, Tinder, and Snapchat. Our digital experiences are designed to display the next story or profile as fast as we can swipe or disappear altogether before we lose interest. Further reinforcing this behavior of rapidly moving from one thing to the next is the virtually limitless pool of content available for consumption.
An overload of content is not just available to Millennials, it’s also being thrown at them faster than they can possibly digest. Research has found that Millennials are bombarded with more than 5,000 marketing messages a day. Assuming a person is awake for 16 hours during a normal day, this would mean that Millennials are hit with a new marketing message roughly every 12 seconds.
With a limited capacity of attention, anything that appears to be a promotion or advertisement is removed using ad blockers and spam filters so that Millennials can focus on content of their choosing. Where a clever advertisement used to be all it took to pique a consumer’s interest, Millennials exhibit no such behavior. In fact, only 1% of this generation claims that a compelling advertisement influences them.
Despite this behavior, the noise continues to be pumped out into the content ecosystem, often with no rhyme, reason, or purpose other than the fact that, well, everyone else is doing it.
We’ve known for some time that a change in strategy is needed. What really needs to change, is content.
Authenticity and Personalization: The Building Blocks for Millennial Engagement
Authenticity no longer needs to be a feature of your content created for the Millennial audience. It needs to be the foundation. Millennials regard authenticity as more important than the content itself when consuming news. They care more about being able to relate to the source of the story or those providing commentary than the information being presented.
An authentic approach to creating content is not only the key to capturing the attention of Millennials, but also their trust. A transparent approach plays a huge role in moving the relationship forward from awareness to engagement. Studies show that if a Millennial trusts your brand, they are 7 times more likely to provide you with their personal information.
Why does this matter?
Aside from the obvious reason to generate leads for your marketing or recruiting engine, getting your audience to provide you with their information is an important milestone that creates an opportunity many brands miss: the opportunity to personalize your audience’s experience.
Personalization should be a vital part of your content efforts for every segment, but for Millennials, it’s a game changer.
Time once called Millennials the “Me Me Me Generation.” When Millennials look at your brand, they want to be able to envision themselves as a part of it. Almost 63% of Millennials say that the brands they buy reflect their style and personality, and your content must do the same.
Millennials are Content Creators Not Consumers
Advertising is not the answer for engaging Millennials. Let’s unpack that idea a bit.
Millennials don’t want to be talked at, they want to be talked with. Advertising’s biggest drawback is its one-way nature. There’s no conversation, no collaboration, no experience.
Rather than communicate to your brand solely through purchasing action, Millennials are looking to partner with brands and collaborate. According to Millennial Marketing, 40% of Millennials want to be involved in co-creating with brands.
Millennials are the content creation generation, with 46% posting content online that they themselves have created. Add in social sharing, and 60% of Millennials are engaged in the process of creating and publishing content.
Looking at social media alone, there are tremendous opportunities for brands to take steps toward co-creation. Just like your brand, Millennials pay close attention to social engagement, using likes, shares, and comments as measures of success for the content they publish. In fact, 43% of Millennials said that whether people comment on their vacation photos is as important, or more important, than experiencing the authentic culture of the destination.
The plan of action here is simple: give ‘em what they want. According to Forbes, 62% of Millennials say that if a brand engages with them on social networks, they are more likely to form a relationship. So engage, nurture, and invite them to join in on your content creation process.
Technology as a Source of Competitive Advantage
Members of the Millennial generation are characterized as trendsetters, quite often in regard to technology. In fact, Millennials are 2.5X more likely to be an early adopter of new technology than non-Millennials. This generation loves its tech, and expects brands to share the same sentiment.
For a generation that seeks out authentic, personalized content experiences and creation opportunities, technology bridges the gap between Millennials and brands. Convenience is also highly valued by this generation, and the latest in technology allows your brand to deliver the instant gratification they crave, giving your audience the ability to find, share, and create content faster than ever.
The key to leveraging the latest in technology to engage Millennials?
Take the limits off of how they can engage with your content, and create their own on your behalf. The experiences you create to collaborate with Millennials must be device agnostic, or “omni-device” in nature. Eighty-seven percent of Millennials use between two and three tech devices at least once on a daily basis, which means if your content does not deliver the same experience across all devices, expect to miss out on relationship-building opportunities.
UGC as the Solution, with One Caveat
Millennials have taken charge and it appears that their influence on the content world will only continue to grow stronger. We know that traditional advertising is not the way to connect with Millennials, nor is bombarding them with poorly crafted and targeted content.
In order to create loyal followers out of the Millennial generation, the methods by which we generate content need to be re-evaluated. Millennials want to be the focal point of your brand's content, as well as take an active role in creating it. They want their digital experiences to be boundless, with the power to engage at their will, not yours.
This all points to a growing content trend that has proven to be popular with Millennials: user-generated content, with one caveat. The socially curated UGC that we have become familiar with only scratches the surface when it comes to depth, and addressing this limitation will be important to your future success with the Millennial generation.
Currently, user-generated content is viewed as an additive content format, giving your audience a voice, albeit a limited one. It delivers on authenticity and personalization, but falls short in providing the opportunity to co-create. The key to delivering a more collaborative UGC experience is to involve your audience in creating and telling your brand’s story.
Think direct engagement rather than curation, and the systems in place to provide Millennials with a canvas by which to create, with your brand managing and publishing these authentic, personalized, and compelling assets.
The Millennial generation is no doubt pushing content producers to be better, but if your brand will allow it, they are more than willing to contribute to the effort.
To better prepare your company for the direction that content marketing is moving, download The Future of Content Marketing.