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Understanding the Millennials Part I

January 01 2009

recording artistI know I need to be on social networks to market my business; I am sold on that. Maybe I am old, but I just do not see why it is so important to young people. Janey from Madison, Wisconsin, wonders. Janey manages the community page for her organization. "Do I really need to comment back every time someone says something? I guess I don't understand why anyone cares?" You may be in this camp. You may not have the same need to have Twitter and Facebook on your phone, pinging you every minute. And many even pin Facebook as an almost vain outlet. Yes, it is a different way of thinking... but to the latter part of Gen Y, also known as the Millennials, it's about belonging.

If belonging is key, then this explains the growth of online communities around everything. Playing fantasy football, the way we shop, the photos we take, and even how we're feeling. There is a great need for recognition and expression. It may seem that the Millennials just want to be their own mini celebrity in their own virtual worlds, and some do but whittled down; they just want to be recognized. Understanding this group and their needs will help shape how you market socially.

On one hand you have:

  • A generation whose parents wanted to give them everything they didn't have
  • An era where the overwhelming message is of acceptance (politically/socially)
  • Newer, gentler teaching styles where everyone gets a gold star as long as they try
  • The most educated of any generation before them
  • A generation not faced with a great deal of challenge and rejection
  • Flashy success stories of peers like Zuckerberg (Facebook) and Jack Dorsey (Twitter) making millions out of a dorm room
  • "Reality" TV, which is most assuredly not reality, that spits out fabulous, opulent lifestyles and narcissistic characters

However, on the other hand you have:

  • Tragedies like 9/11
  • The dot com crash
  • The lending crisis
  • The real estate crash
  • Country wide debt
  • Jobs taken by the Baby Boomers and Generation X
  • An aging workforce that makes Gen Y less employed than any other generation
  • Idealistic and perhaps entitled expectations, which limits thinking and opportunities
  • New feelings of rejection and challenge – jobs, interviews, living at home

Their living observation of rapid change, growth, and demise has made the appeal to connect and express essential to feeling "part of something." Understanding this desire for recognition and belonging colliding with instant communication, social technology, and environments where your input matters made social media explode. From sharing your latest music mix and photos of your birthday to TV shows "needing your vote," this group has found a way to make their lives interactive, communal, and important.

Marketing to this generation should be fun because you have a group that is excited to share. Engage with them; don't leave their comments hanging, be sure to comment back. Share something personal, something funny, and expose a little more of who you are. Connect with your fan base by Liking and sharing their thoughts. Promote or highlight your #1 fan. In the end, be fun, engage, and soon you'll be something that everyone looks forward to.

To read the original blog post, please click here.

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