Today, I had a marketing professor tell us “well, you guys all know social media is the best place that ‘your generation’ can be reached by a brand.”
I paused. I’m 20. A millennial. Part of the “digital generation”. I am part of the generation he was summarizing, and I couldn’t disagree more.
Yes, social media is a big part of my life; and yes, probably bigger than any other generation.
Yes, I follow a few brands on social media.
Yes, I may even browse brand pages at my leisure to stay updated on what’s going on with their company.
Yes, all of that may be true.
But, the #1 reason I think people are wrong about “my generation” and social media isn’t any of the reasons above. In fact, the world has a lot of that right. However, many people are convinced that we want to be approached on social media by brands. Some may add the caveat – “well, as long as it’s done well, it’s targeted, and informative… .” I’m here to tell you that no matter what constraints you put on it, you’re wrong.
“My generation” doesn’t enjoy how our personal lives have become increasingly less personal thanks to the explosion of social media advertising. Many of us even want to abandon our social presences because we’re so sick of the constant bombardment … but then we remember our entire lives are connected through our Facebook accounts.
We don’t want brands pushing us continuous ads, no matter how “seamlessly” it’s integrated with our news feeds.
We don’t want to be pestered by brands. We don’t want to be interrupted. And we don’t want the world to think that’s the best way to get our attention.
Here’s what we do want.
We want access.
We want access to companies, information, support, and brands. If I were to pinpoint one benefit of the increasing commercialization of social media, I’d have to pick the ability to tweet at a brand and actually get a response. We value and prefer brands that will help us through understanding and working with their products. Whether I’m trying to decide which model to buy of your camera, need product support, or simply want to chat, brand access on social media is valuable when I am the one starting the conversation.
We want to consume on our own time and own agenda.
We are a curious generation and we love discovering new information. Social Media Week nailed it on the head when they wrote about 3 Reasons Why Content Marketing Was Made for Millennials. However, the difference between content marketing and social media marketing, from a millennial perspective, is simple: content marketing helps, social media marketing bothers.
Can you imagine a photo of your aunt’s new kitchen popping up on your Google Search? Or even similar to today’s targeting techniques – her kitchen photo showing when you’re looking for a new home? Maybe the second scenario isn’t as frustrating, but it’s still distracting and useless. That’s how we feel when an ad for women’s deodorant pops up in the middle of our Instagram feed. Yes I am a woman, yes I use deodorant. No, I’m not pleased to be reminded of that fact amidst enjoying photos of my friends’ lives, and I’m definitely not suddenly more interested in your product.
We want social media to stay social. We want brands to stay digital. We want them to stay separate.
Let me set one thing straight, I’m definitely not arguing the fact that brands are wasting their time on social media – that is not the case at all. As a millennial consumer, I immediately discredit a brand if they don’t have their I’s dotted and T’s crossed on social media. However, there is a difference between a brand caring about social media and a brand using social media to push a message.
As a brand, build your social media presence like you would as a person. People don’t pay to interrupt others’ social media experiences because, well frankly, that would be annoying. Focus on building an experience, embracing the immediacy and personalization of social media. Create, curate, and post content that enhances the lives of your followers. Yes, you can even throw some money behind it if you want. But if you want millennials to really feel connected with you as a brand through your social media presence, bombarding them with paid ads is not the way.
But most importantly, use social media to listen. Social media gives brands a unique perspective when it comes to hearing what we say about a product metaphorically “behind your back”, and millennials are the first ones to use it that way. When you start focusing less on paid interruptions, and more on listening, you’ll be able to better anticipate meeting our needs when we reach out to you for information.
Give a millennial an ad, you may hook us for a moment. Empower us to learn and you could capture us for a lifetime.