The Dos and Don’ts of Reaching Millennials via Social Media

Opinion: Although social media marketing may seem like an easy strategy to leverage when targeting millennials, it is not without its challenges

Today’s marketers have countless options when it comes to social media. Some platforms peak in popularity and then quickly disappear. This makes it difficult to determine which channels to invest time and budget in.

For digital marketers specifically targeting millennials, this adds an extra challenge. Millennials are always looking for the “next big thing.” By the time marketers decipher which platform millennials are currently using, they’ve moved on.

Do videos, not text

Video is one of the most effective marketing mediums. 85 percent of millennials currently use video in their marketing strategies, and almost one-half (45 percent) dedicate more than one-quarter of their budget to it, according to recent research from Magisto.

Video is an extremely powerful medium. It can be effortlessly incorporated into social media platforms. It can help showcase brands’ personalities. It can increase brand engagement and awareness.

Consumers no longer want to read about a brand—they want to see it. They want to watch the brand story unfold. They want to see the newest product being used. They want to watch a designer sketch a new piece of clothing.

Text prohibits how far a consumer can be brought into a brand’s world. Video invites the consumer in and allows them to be a part of it.

Do Snapchat, not Facebook

In the beginning, Facebook was exclusive to college students. Soon after launching, the platform opened its doors to high school students and beyond. However, the primary users were still young adults—no parents, no grandparents.

Now, it has become a popular social media platform for parents and a handful of digital-savvy grandparents. News Feeds are cluttered with posts from older generations, and millennials are not interested. They are looking for a new platform—probably to avoid those embarrassing comments from mom and dad.

And many moved on to Snapchat. According to a Nielsen study commissioned by the company, Snapchat reaches 41 percent of all 18- to 34-year-olds in the U.S. daily. Big brands such as Taco Bell and Nike have been testing opportunities with Snapchat since last year. Digital marketers, especially those targeting millennials, should follow suit and take a break from Facebook.

Snapchat offers a variety of opportunities for marketers. Video ads can be placed within Snapchat’s Live Stories, which are collections of curated Snaps taken by users at events, or Discover, which is where media companies have dedicated channels.

Another option is sponsored geofilters, which allow brands to target users based on their location. The targeted users can then choose to overlay the brand’s filter on top of their own image or video. Taco Bell’s Cinco de Mayo geofilter made headlines last year. The filter transformed people’s heads into a giant taco drizzled with sauce. It shattered Snapchat records.

Do Instagram, not Twitter

Today’s consumers are visual. Most prefer to look at images or watch videos rather than reading articles. This is demonstrated through the influx of listicle articles and online videos, but it is also apparent within social media platforms.

Instagram entered the market in 2010 and continues to see exceptional growth. Users can’t get enough of its visual-only feed. One quick glance at an image and they know if they want to like it or not, and it’s on to the next image. Twitter, on the other hand, involves reading text—only 140 characters, but text nonetheless.

Marketers need to focus on Instagram, especially if millennials are the target. According to a recent Pew Research Center report, nearly 60 percent of Instagram users are between the ages of 18 and 29, and around one-half of Instagram users visit the platform at least once per day. In contrast, only 36 percent of Twitter’s users are between the ages of 18 and 29, and 42 percent of its users visit the site at least once per day.

Instagram offers marketers the opportunity to connect with current fans of the brand, but also to reach those outside of their networks through sponsored ads. This platform can boost brand relevance and engagement, and increase revenues, without large budgets.

The lingering social channels: Google+ and Pinterest

We would be amiss if we didn’t discuss two social media channels that linger in the background behind the major players.

Google+, often deemed a failed social network, still boasts a large following. It is a popular destination for certain online communities, including photographers. The platform recently announced a redesign, and changes include zoom functionality for photos and bringing back an events feature to allow users to create and invite others to events.

Pinterest boasts 70 million U.S. users. However, according to Pew, only 36 percent of them are between 18 and 29 years old, and only one quarter of its users check the platform daily.

Similar to other social channels, Pinterest offers the opportunity to create Promoted Pins.

That said, neither of these social media platforms is being flocked to by millennials. If millennials are your target, these are not the social platforms to utilize.

Do paid, not organic

Leveraging social media is often presented as a way to increase brand awareness and engagement for free. But you won’t see the needle move much if you don’t invest. Yes, you can set up social media platforms for free. Yes, you can post as much as you want. Yes, you can incorporate hashtags to help users find your content. This won’t yield strong results.

The good news? Social media advertising can be executed with virtually any budget. Social media allows you to have an immense reach at a low cost. By utilizing paid social media advertising, you can reach an audience beyond your followers. You can get very specific with targeting, which allows you to reach consumers that will have a genuine interest in your brand.

Allocating budget to social media advertising is a necessity, but this does not mean you should ignore organic posts. After all, your current followers will want to hear from you through more than sponsored posts. It is important for brands to find a balance between paid and organic—but plan on spending some extra time on your paid strategy. It will be worth it.

Although social media marketing may seem like an easy strategy to leverage when targeting millennials, it is not without its challenges. Marketers need to think about which platforms to use, which to invest in and the type of content they are sharing.

Millennials are attuned with what they like to see and not see on their social feeds, so monitoring what type of content performs well is imperative. Digital marketers need to keep an eye on trends and the demographics of social media platforms to ensure they are on the right platform for their target audience.

Courtney Simpson is director of marketing at customer engagement platform Startek.

Image courtesy of monsitj/iStock.