Everyone’s talking these days about Millennials, or so it seems. And most of the stories about them focus on the fact that they are a highly “social” generation. For example, one report I read recently says they are “highly reliant on social media and technology”; another observes that Millennials are cashing in on their social influence , noting “for 18-33 year olds born into the digital revolution, creating and sharing content on social media is second nature.”
Millennials are indeed highly social, with huge implications for brands. But, there remains confusion about where their social activity takes place and how best to activate it. As a result some marketers may be misconstruing how best to engage with them.
Millennials are a communicative generation, accounting for a whopping 689 million word of mouth (WOM) impressions about brands per day. But here is something that might surprise you. Despite their tech savvy, 84% of these WOM impressions are as a result of offline conversations, primarily face-to-face, according to the latest research from the Keller Fay Group.
Their word of mouth conversations cover a pretty wide span of categories. For example, they are more than 50% more likely than the rest of the population to engage in daily conversations about technology and 25% more likely to talk about technology brands. But it’s not all technology focused, as they are a third more likely to talk about categories such as shopping and retail or media and entertainment.
More good news for marketers: Media and marketing content fits in easily into their social sharing. Nearly two thirds of Millennials’ conversations about brands include references to things they see online, or on TV, or at the point of sale, or other contact points that brands use to reach them. In this regard, they are about 10 percent more likely to discuss media or marketing when they talk about brands than other Americans.
Digging more deeply into the specifics of what sparks their conversations, we can see exactly where digital media plays a significant role with the Millennials. Whereas for the rest of the public digital media and television are about equal when it comes to their role in word of mouth conversations, for the Millennials digital media is far and away #1, with fully 25 percent of their conversations including references to things they have seen on digital media vs. 19 percent for non-Millennials. (Brand websites lead the way, followed closely by internet ads, social media and online reviews.) TV is second for Millennials, taking a spot in 17 percent of word of mouth conversations, putting them on even footing with non-Millennials.
Magazines, email marketing and radio all play a smaller role in the conversations of Millennials relative to digital media and TV, but they are talked about in larger numbers by Millennials than by those who are 35+, and thereby represent interesting media for marketers to consider when coming up with a Millennial marketing strategy.
The moral of this story is that research can be revealing, but it can also mask truths if they go unexplored. Yes, the Millennials are a digital generation and sharing online is a part of their DNA. But the key is to understand that is just that -- “a part” of their DNA; it does not define who they are. They are not singularly committed to communicating via social media.
Brands that wish to establish a powerful social strategy for Millennials should take a “total social” perspective and consider all the marketing touch points that reach Millennials and make their way into their conversations, and also consider all the channels through which Millennials share their brand stories, including the overwhelming majority that take place in the real world.
Ed Keller, CEO of the Keller Fay Group, has been called "one of the most recognized names inword of mouth." His new book, The Face-to-Face Book: Why Real Relationships Rule in a Digital Marketplace, was recently published by Free Press/Simon & Schuster. You can follow Ed Keller on Twitter, Facebook and Google+, or contact him directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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