What’s In It For Me? Engaging Millennials Online

I have talked about how to get Millennials’ attention online. Now, let’s assume you have it, how do you keep it, given all the competition?

The Internet is a modern day three ring circus: there’s something cool going on everywhere you look. According to Comscore, 45% of all page transitions are ‘link following’. Every web page offers multiple enticements to move on. To create interest, you must say something worth staying with, in other words ‘relevant’.

Keeping Gen Y’s attention in an environment defined by distraction requires being ‘interesting’.

Gen Y blogger, Meg Roberts, wrote an article titled “How I would market to myself’ in which she offers this advice:

Focus on adding value rather than overloading on content. The best way to ensure we’re listening to your messages is to make them relevant to us.  Learn why we’re in a given community, whether it’s Facebook or Twitter or an iPhone app, and speak to us without severely interrupting what we’re doing .”

Note the words “without severely interrupting”. When creating messages for Millennials, it’s important to ask whether or not the message meet the test of whether it’s worth interrupting.

If a friend wouldn’t interupt than a marketer shouldn’t either.

For Millennials, interruptions are the height of rudeness. There is a heirarchy of communications. A phone call is highly interruptive – and it’s little wonder that Millennials make very few phone calls. Phone calls are reserved for very important conversations, like telling your parents you need money or will be traveling to Puerto Rico rather than home for spring break. For less momentus communications, which is to say most communications, they rely on texts.  A teen sends hundreds of texts a day. Texts are less intrusive than phone calls and yet still has urgency. Email is even less intrusive than texts. Email is used when a message is not time sensitive or does not require an immediate response.

Is it Relevant, Cool or Exciting?

Another test for relevance is whether a communication is ‘status update worthy’. As Gen y marketer and community member, Josip Petrusa, puts it this way:

“One thing we love to do is tell the world when something cool, great or exciting is happening to us. In a sense, we love to brag for attention. You’ll always hear about the vacation we’re going on, the sports event we’re going to, the movie we’re seeing, the concert we were at and I could go on and on. Make it something that will give me a reason to tell everyone else about it. A funny and ridiculous video-clip, a great experience or something that even seems exclusive, would all be status update worthy.” You have to reinvent cool, great and exciting.”

What’s In It for Me?

There is a myth that Millennials don’t like advertising. Actually this isn’t true. They like ads that are entertaining or funny, especially for brands they already love. They love the iPad, Axe and current Kindle ads.  These are ads that give back something in return for attention.

The Associated Press (AP), a group with a vested interest in Millennials’ interest in news and ads, released a study in March that looked at ‘news ad fatigue’.  The study took an in-depth, ethnographic approach that focused especially on people 18-34. The research concluded that consumers are “tired, even annoyed, by the current experience of advertising,” and that, as a result, “they don’t trust very much of it“.

Younger consumers, ages 18-34, want to be in the know, and two thirds think it’s important to be among the first to hear news compared with just 10 % of older people. Millennial consumption of news is actually increasing. According to  Mckinsey the average person consumes 72 minutes of news a day, compared with just 60 minutes in 2006 and the increase was driven almost entirely by people under the age of 35.

Young adults have adopted ways of getting their news that are much different from those of past generations. Younger consumers are not only less reliant on the newspaper to get their news; they also consume news across a multitude of platforms and sources, all day, constantly. They also think of each other as their main news source.

Here’s a description of how “Mark”, a 28-year old manager of an online travel agency consumes media.

Mark’s news cycle was continuous and he spent up to six hours a day searching for and receiving information. Mark was on the Internet most of the day and used that time to keep up to date on news coverage and sports-related information. Mark liked his news to be “punchy” and pointfocused. He read the headlines followed up online to “find out what’s happening” with stories that he wanted to track. Mark’s news consumption was related to other activities that he was engaged in and although he was actively consuming the news, it was almost always in tandem with other activities such as driving or working…

You may be surprised to learn,  that brands do not do all that well in social media among Millennials. Only 12% have ‘friended ‘ a brand on Facebook. Only four brands on Facebook have more than five million ‘liking’ – only 16 have more than 1.5 million.  22% of Millennial use Twitter, a small number to begin with, but of those, only 29% follow companies.  Friending a brand is a high hurdle. In terms of Facebook fans, the numbers are even lower. Just 2 brands have more than 5 million fans on Facebook, Starbucks and Coca-cola.

So what do they find relevant?

It will probably come as no surprise that the main reason to join a fan group on Twitter or Facebook is to get news or discounts. Here according to a Pace University study are the top reasons to fan a brand on Facebook:

  • Getting news or product updates (67%)
  • Having access to promotions (64%)
  • Viewing or downloading music or videos (41%)
  • Submitting opinions (36%)
  • Connecting with other consumers (33%)

Meg Roberts concurs. Her blog post, “How I would Market to Myself”, goes on to offer this advice about  ‘free stuff’ and intreating ‘conversationally’ with her favorite brands.

We’re just out of college.  Loan payments are becoming a harsh reality.  If you want us to try out your brand, give us some free samples or coupon codes.  Plus, if a company could build an entire online community based on the loyalty rewards system, I’d probably check it out to see what other users are saying about new products/sales/coupons/etc.”

“Don’t use social media as a billboard but as a telephone. Social media should be an interactive tool, and when your consumers speak, listen and respond. In my experience, the most successful Twitter accounts and Facebook fan pages are those that go beyond simple @replies and wall posts. Ask questions, get our feedback, and implement changes. Everyone likes to have their ego stroked, right? Brand consumers, especially Gen Y ones, are no different. What feels better than having a company listen to reasonable, quality recommendations we’ve made?”

(This post is the second in a series about digital Marketing to Millennials™ based on a speech given at iMedia Summit, Miami on June 15. Tomorrow: “What Do They Want? Tapping Into Desires”)