How Do Brands Connect to Millennials, Anyway?

Two things PR and marketing professionals hear a lot about: sponsored content and the challenges of reaching a crucial and rightly skeptical Millennial demographic.

We recently had a Q&A session with Greg Shove to get his take on things. Shove is CEO and founder of SocialChorus, an “advocate marketing” company specializing in management software designed to help brands recruit advocates online.

When conducting their own survey to promote their offerings, the company recorded some interesting, if not particularly surprising, results:

  • 67% of Millennials reported that they have never clicked on a sponsored story- they don’t trust advertising
  • 95% of Millennials say that friends are the most credible source of product info
  • 98% of Milllennials are more likely to engage with a friend’s post over a brand’s post

About what we expected, no? Let’s see what Shove had to say about the implications of and solutions to those findings.

Since shared content is more trusted, how can brand strategists convince Millennials to pass content around without tricking them (beyond writing “share if you like…” copy lines)?

It’s important to provide content Millennials want to share. Ernest Dichter, known as the father of motivational research, found that when it comes to why people share, it all comes down to a few key principles:

  1. Content makes people look smart. Provide content that makes millennials look good. No one wants to share generic marketing jargon.
  2. Content is funny or entertaining to share. Provide content that is so funny, entertaining that millennials “have to” share it with their friends.
  3. Content is helpful to people’s friends. Provide valuable content that people want to share because it is helpful to others.
  4. Content provides a way for people express themselves. Provide content that allows people to express their views and values. Don’t be too prescriptive and allow for creative freedom.

So they’re skeptical of branded content, but at the same time recent research shows they’re more willing to share, even when it comes to personal info.

Millennials were raised in a completely digital generation, a generation that is defined by sharing. A recent study from USC Annenberg Center for the Digital Future shed some light on Millennials views on privacy and why millennials share. Millennials realize that they need to give to get and realize that by sharing personal information, they will get something in return.

Do you take the results of your study to mean that sponsored content is NOT the future? 

Sponsored content on Facebook is not the future; it’s the past disguising itself as the future. Sponsored content is advertising in disguise, which doesn’t make it any more credible to millennials than it’s predecessor. Just because it’s on a social channel or a popular web channel does not make sponsored content cool or a better way to reach millennials.  Millennials are ad-adverse and “tricking” them with disguised forms of advertising is not the way to win them over as loyal customers or brand advocates. (Ed. note: few will parrot the following headline.)

A quote in your press release discusses the importance of marketing WITH Gen Y rather than TO them and “identifying Millennial advocates”. What does this mean, exactly? Does it mean paying a celebrity to mention your brand, or paying a non-celebrity spokesperson to share with his Friends?

Marketing with millennials does not mean paying celebrities. In our recent SocialChorus Millennials as Advocates survey, celebrities were trusted by only 7% of millennials as a credible source of product information. It also doesn’t mean paying Millennials.

What it does mean is that brands need to find creative ways to appeal to Millennials and empower them to share the brand’s story. Turning a millennial consumer into a brand advocate opens up the opportunity to create a lifelong customer.

Please flesh out two relationships: 1. the relationship between the advocate and the brand 2. the relationship between the advocate and the Gen Y public

1. This relationship is about perceived value exchange (see Ernest Dichter above).

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