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How to Market to Millennials & Young Professionals in 2018

Small businesses that aren’t marketing to millennials are missing out. Even if they’re not your primary target market, it’s essential that at least a portion of your customer base are millennials. This fast-growing market has already surpassed the number of baby boomers, according to data from the U.S. Census Bureau. In a matter of years, it’s possible that regardless of your primary target market, millennials could make up a bigger share of your customer base.

marketing to millennials
Marketing to millennials should be an important part of your strategy. (Image source: Envato Elements)

Apart from that, millennials are even willing to pay small businesses more. An AT&T survey found that half of millennials are willing to pay more to support small businesses, while only 38-percent of Gen Xers and 42-percent of boomers say they’re willing to do so.

Given these opportunities, every small business should start taking the steps to reaching out to this market. This guide can show you how.

How to Market to Millennials: Getting to Know Them

Let’s start by looking at the broad picture of who millennials are. Simply put, millennials were born between the early 1980s to the 1990s. The specific years change depending on the source, but the Pew Research Center defines millennials as people born between 1981 to 1996. There are roughly 73 million millennials in the United States, 8.82 million millennials in the U.K., and 400 million millennials in China.

The large population of millennials in the U.S. contributes to their purchasing power, which is close to $200 billion annually, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation

Before you can start marketing to the millennial generation, you need to understand them. Here are some of the characteristics that make the millennial generation unique:

  • Millennials gravitate toward metropolitan areas. A House of Commons Library paper found that many millennials in the U.K. reside in London. Pew also revealed that compared to Boomers and the Silent Generation, millennials tend to live in metropolitan areas in the U.S., with 9 in 10 living in a city.
  • In the U.S. and the U.K., millennials are the most racially diverse generation. The Brookings Metropolitan Policy Program found that millennials are the most racially diverse generation in U.S. history. In the U.K., the population aged 45 and younger were more racially diverse than older age groups (according to a House of Commons briefing).
  • Few millennials head their own households. In 2016 Pew reported that, 91-percent of millennials reported that they were living in their parents’ home for at least one year.

With a better idea of what millennials are like, you can now start defining a millennial market segment you want to reach. By narrowing down more details about the group you want to reach, you can create marketing strategies that are better suited to them. Here are some tutorials that can help you through the process:

Marketing to Millennials: 4 Ideas to Keep in Mind

Given the above profile of millennials, there are a few marketing strategies that this market seems to gravitate towards:

1. Authenticity

When marketing to millennials and young professionals, the knee-jerk reaction of most business owners is to start pandering. This usually means using memes and jargon that are often identified with millennial online culture. But if the brand isn’t sincere or tongue-in-cheek when using these references, it’ll repel their millennial audience who’ll find it inauthentic.

An authentic approach is key when testing different ways on how to market to millennials. According to research from Stackla, 90 percent of millennials state that authenticity is important to them when choosing brands to support. In fact, the study found that they’re the largest generational group that unfollows brands because of inauthentic content. If you want Millennials to see your business as authentic, you can do it in the following ways:

  • User generated content. As much as possible, get your customers, fans, or users to create your content for you. Believe it or not, people can tell the difference. The Stackla survey also found that consumers felt that less than half of brand generated content was authentic. More importantly, 70-percent of the time, consumers can tell the difference between user generated content and brand generated content. 
  • Focus on content, not ad spots. Authenticity also means less of a focus on ads and more on content. Research from Social Chorus found that only 6-percent of millennials found advertising trustworthy.
Marketing to millennials with authentic content
Majority of consumers found consumer-created content as most authentic. Data from Stackla.

One example of this authentic approach is the Instagram strategy of Buffer, a social media scheduling app. Their Instagram account often posts photos tagged #buffercommunity. The photos in these posts are created by Buffer users themselves. As a result, their users are able to see the highlights of other users’ experiences, fostering the feeling of community.

Example of how to market to millennials with user generated content
Buffer users send in photos for the #buffercommunity posts in the company’s Instagram account.

If you need help in crafting an authentic voice that suits your brand, the following guides are a good start:

2. Real-time or Recent Content

Marketing to millennials also requires recency. This means quickly responding to queries and comments, producing livestreamed content, taking advantage of trending social media topics, and regularly posting something new. Even reviews have to be recent, since 73-percent of potential customers feel that a review older than three months is outdated already according to a consumer survey from BrightLocal. Here are some ways to keep your marketing real-time, or as close to it as possible:

  • Reply to comments. When people comment on your blog or social media posts, respond to them, especially if they’ve got a question or problem. More importantly, you’ve got to respond quickly. SproutSocial found that while brands take around 10 hours to respond on social media, customers are only willing to wait for four hours.
  • Respond to mentions of your business. While you don’t have to respond every time someone mentions your business in a public post, you should definitely respond to customer problems, questions, and opportunities to create brand awareness. 
  • Disappearing content. Though disappearing content isn’t necessarily real-time, the fact that it disappears after 24 hours taps into your millennials’ fear of missing out. You can create disappearing content via Instagram Stories, Facebook Stories, and Snapchat.
  • Livestreaming. Millennials are the biggest group that consumes livestreams. A UBS survey found that 63-percent of millennials watch livestreams, and that 42-percent have also created their own livestreams. 

When it comes to responding to mentions on social media, Wendy’s is one of the brands that does it with a unique voice. No matter how small or silly the mention, the burger chain’s Twitter account manages to spin it into something interesting or funny. The result? Tweets from Wendy’s often end up going viral.

How to get millennials attention using Twitter
Wendy’s uses a unique voice to respond to customers on social media. (Screenshot from BoredPanda.com)

Loft, a women’s apparel company, uses Instagram Stories to highlight events and product launches. This allows them to maximize the marketing potential of events, since followers who aren’t attending can catch snippets of the event almost in real time.

Using Instagram Stories when marketing to millennials
Through disappearing content, you’ll give your audience an almost real-time glimpse of your business events.

3. Made for Social Media

Another key approach when considering how to market to young professionals is to keep social media in mind when creating content. It’s the primary channel that millennials use to connect with brands. Five out of six millennials use social media for this purpose, and they’re more likely to discover marketing content on social media channels than via search or email, according to a survey from SDL

This presents a great opportunity for small businesses, especially since social media marketing is less expensive than traditional channels and is more user-friendly to implement than other online channels.

When you create marketing materials made for social media, here are some things to keep in mind:

  • Content size. Every social media site has different sizes required for graphics and video posts. Be aware of these differences, especially when cross-posting content across different platforms. For example, a square infographic might look great on Facebook, but when the same graphic is viewed within a Twitter newsfeed, parts of it’ll get cut off. Even within the same network, the sizes differ depending on where you’ll display the content. In Instagram newsfeeds, square videos might work, but for Instagram Stories the video dimensions are 1080px by 1920px. 
  • Content length. For video and text posts, you need to know the length that works for each platform. HubSpot found that while two-minute videos get good engagement in YouTube, Instagram videos are best when only 30 seconds long.

Your business can draw inspiration from the strategy used by Cheddar, a financial news website that caters specifically to millennials and Gen Z users. One common misconception about millennials is that they aren’t big consumers of financial news. But through the use of livestreaming, infographics, and short video clips, Cheddar was able to create financial content that millennials love. As a result, the engagement on their Facebook Page has far outpaced CNBC and Fox Business.

In the example below, Cheddar posted a one-minute long animated video on Elon Musk when he was recently made prominent in the news. This works because it’s short, formatted for mobile consumption, and is about a trending topic on social media.

In the above example, Cheddar creates snackable mobile content for millennial consumers.

4. Cause Oriented

If you really want your small business to learn how to market to millennials, don’t forget to ensure that your branding and your content is cause oriented. An extensive survey from MSL Group found that four out of five millennials worldwide expect businesses to get involved in social issues. In fact, millennials’ concern for the environment seems to be driving the increase in organic food sales, according to research from Goldman Sachs. In other words, you need to bring larger social, environmental, and ethical issues into your small business’ brand.

Toms, a footwear company, devotes an entire section of their website to “How We Give” — a documentation of the many ways customer purchases contribute to helping a person in need. It’s no surprise then that despite larger competitors like Nike, Toms still rates higher for millennials.

How to get millennials attention through causes
Toms shows their customers how their purchases provide for the needs of others.

Learn How to Get Millennials’ Attention

Learning how to market to young professionals and millennials shouldn’t be a big mystery. Once you understand your millennial target market and have created buyer personas for them, it’ll be easier to come up with ideas that’ll appeal to them. 

As long as your marketing strategy is authentic, recent, socially-responsible, and keeps social media in mind, your business will start attracting that millennial customer base. Why not start your marketing strategy to millennials today?