Marketers are often pegged with questions related to the future of social media such as: Is Facebook still relevant? What’s the next social platform? Which is more powerful: a like, share, retweet, favorite?
While these are all fair questions, attempting to grade the social landscape in this manner is counterproductive and missing the greater point.
While it is true that millennials are the heaviest users of social media and are 2.5 times more likely to be early adopters of new digital, social and mobile tools, they are using social media in a different way than their boomer and gen X predecessors. However, what drives brand engagement for millennials is not just having a presence in the digital environment, but rather the content that is dispersed through different channels.
Your approach to content is what will make or break your marketing communication efforts in the future. Social Media is simply one way to activate your content strategy.
1. Think discovery not interruption
Boomers, unlike their millennial children, are more inclined to react positively to interruptive traditional advertising – newspaper ads, TV and radio spots, etc. While these methods still build awareness within the millennial demographic, they are not interactive or engaging enough to inspire true millennial brand love. Ultimately, awareness and regard alone will not correlate in any way to extra-ordinary and sustainable financial performance.
What will accomplish those goals, however, is a strong content driven campaign.
Content is the communication consumers choose to spend time with.
Think of content as an opportunity for your brand voice to live everywhere you are not. We used to think of advertising as a means of communicating a message to a target audience. In this way, traditional advertising messages were limited to their specific medium. Millennials, however, are the first generation to be considered digital natives and they have transformed the market so that consumers experience brands in a fluid way.
Advertising is no longer limited to just one medium.
Content marketing is about creating new opportunities to discover a brand on my terms and on my time, not about being force-fed a brand message when I am not seeking it out.
2. Create agility in your content marketing
The brands that create the most agile content will experience the most positive millennial responses. Agile content brings the real-time communication piece into the content marketing game. This type of content allows brands to be nimble and up-to-date with current trends and conversations. Brands that incorporate agile content into their marketing plans are constantly checking and re-evaluating their progress and success.
Smart brands must be able to think rapidly and constantly revise the content they push out. The key is to utilize data in order to create actionable, scalable and achievable content strategies.
Traditionally, brands analyzed what consumers did in the past to predict the future. Now, agile content combines consumer, product and social data that allows brands to study millennial actions and behaviors in real time in order to gain insights that can be utilized to create content that is even more engaging than it was two hours ago.
3. Content value is rooted in the peer affirmation principle
Millennials have a major peer affirmation theme and they share what interests them, not what big companies want them to share. Think about how agile content is constantly being recreated based on consumer responses. The goal is to ultimately create content that millennials want to share.
Marketers used to encourage sharing by word-of-mouth. This trend is strong with boomers and gen xers but is taken to a whole new level when we bring in the digital native millennial generation. As a result, today we talk about “word of mouse” rather than word of mouth. The “share” is no anomaly; we’ve just shifted environments where people are sharing.
Millennials are also more likely than other generations to share branded content if they relate to it or it somehow affects their life.
If you do it right, they’ll do it for you.
In the future, the most successful brands will leverage the relationships they have with consumers so that the consumer is essentially doing the marketing for the brand – at their own time and expense. Every fall, Starbucks does not ask millennials to take pictures of their Pumpkin Spice Lattes but they are doing it anyways. Those pictures are shared, liked, retweeted and regrammed – not by Starbucks but by millennial customers. In a matter of 140 characters, that millennial has just become your top branded content contributor.