Follow the Millennials: The Driving Force Behind Changes to SMB Marketing

Have you noticed a change in small and midsized business marketing? Did you feel the recent shift?

Have you noticed a change in small and midsized business marketing? Did you feel the recent shift? It turns out that there is a pivotal transformation happening around word-of-mouth marketing with both video and social media at the core. An intriguing shift in the way SMBs are marketing themselves was revealed in recent report Unlocking the Most Powerful Shift in SMB Marketing.

If you’re wondering who caused this shift, the answer is millennials–a generation with an organic understanding of social media that is taking over the workforce. In 2015, millennials became the largest share of the American workforce, according to Pew Research, increasing adoption of social media marketing and online.

What does this mean for SMBs? This shift represents an enormous opportunity.

Large corporations have historically had an almost monopolistic hold on reaching mass audiences using media and video largely because of cost, but also due to the architecture of how the traditional media industry was constructed. SMBs with some forward-looking vision have a new way to compete, eliminating many of the costs of the middleman. This lets them go directly to their consumers by embracing new tools and tactics, utilizing video to its fullest potential and engaging across channels with an authentic voice.

Here’s how this can all be achieved:

The trade has changed and so have the tools

First and foremost, this shift means that the media mix and the tools and tactics of how SMB marketers accomplish goals are quickly changing. You should consider trying them out if you haven’t already.

Millennials are leveraging their understanding of a new media mix along with new tools to reach these goals. It is important to note, however, that the goals have not changed. SMB marketers consistently focus on building brand awareness, generating new customers and maintaining loyalty with existing customers.

It wasn’t too long ago that the only way to reach a mass audience was via TV and print. In the years to come, it will be nearly impossible to reach the masses through those channels.

Marketers have to embrace a new media mix and the tools and tactics that allow businesses to leverage that mix. Many of us are not comfortable exposing our professional personas publically. I’m not advocating for blind irreverence, but if you fall into that category, consider playing around in a way feels comfortable. Try it on for size by sharing an Instagram photo or retweeting. Most important, listen to your community and learn from them.

A lot of marketers that are new to a platform–myself included–sign-up, create an account and then proclaim, “I don’t get it.” That’s the point: You don’t get it. The only way to “get it” is watching what others are doing and learning the nuances of how social media works. Each channel has slightly different rules for engagement.

Millennials are all over it, leveraging their understanding of a new media mix and new tools to reach their personal and professional goals.

Native sophistication of social media channels and the understanding of powerful refinement is what drives millennials’ success. In turn, 92 percent of those at SMBs lead with social media in their marketing strategy.

Attention, marketers: Video has left the building

Video has always been incredibly powerful. It’s the medium that feels most lifelike. You can still watch dated Kodak moment commercials and feel a whimper and a sniffle.

What has changed is that video is no longer a medium reserved for Madison Avenue. Social video is exploding in the business world: Twitter has Periscope, Amazon has Twitch, Google has YouTube and Facebook has Facebook Live. In fact, 2 million SMBs posted videos on Facebook in March alone.

In other words, if you haven’t embraced video yet, the time is now. The key is using video correctly. We are at an inflection point in the adoption of video marketing driven by an understanding of the power of video, especially among the younger generation.

Two out of three SMBs create marketing videos at least four times per year, and 61 percent of baby boomers lead their marketing strategy with traditional product overview videos, versus millennials, who lead with branded lifestyle video.

There are many cases for SMB videos–how-tos, product demos, brand storytelling and customer testimonials. Millennials are 136 percent more likely than baby boomers to create video specifically for social media. They are serial storytellers across topics and platforms.

So what’s the rub? I think it all goes back to my previous point–that millennials simply have a native understanding of how to use social media channels, they understand the language, the complexity and the commitment it takes to do it well. Baby boomers are still pining for simpler days and struggling to learn a language that is deceptively difficult to master.

Authenticity is everything

Let’s assume you have the social profiles created, tools, people and resources allocated, the commitment and the will to embrace video. This next bit is the hardest part to figure out. It’s the subtlest piece of this nuanced puzzle, but it’s by far the most important.

Millennial SMB marketers understand the nuances of authenticity. They understand that social media has its own culture, and it is one that requires storytelling and a defined personalized voice in order to succeed. On the other hand, baby boomers assume that traditional marketing content pushed through social channels will be equally as effective and struggle to figure out why it is not.

The good news is that authenticity, in this case, has a broad definition. Your consumers want to see real people. They want real stories, real emotions and they want to know that you–the marketer–are genuinely empathetic to them and their environs. But there are lots of ways to signal that. You need to experiment with voice and production style and figure out what works for you and your team.

To some extent, this has always been the case. If you made a bad TV spot in 1996, no one watched it and it didn’t help grow your business. The difference now is that low-budget and even no-budget content can win on engagement and drive low cost distribution.

The bottom line is that you can probably still buy your way through this new world if you have a big enough budget, but you can also be certain that there will be competitors out there that don’t do it with sheer dollar volume. They create content people care about on a regular basis and they have a competitive advantage over you.

While a viral sensation would be great, you don’t need that, and you shouldn’t aim for it, either. You need stories that your audience finds authentic and engaging on a consistent and regular schedule.

On some days, I feel overwhelmed by it all–buzzwords flying around like horseflies, SMS alerts popping, applications beeping, videos playing in my pocket that I didn’t even realize I had opened.

What has worked for me is committing to one or two channels and tools in my personal life, and experimenting first before expanding on them.

There is a hint of irony in this approach, but the key to learning how to express your professional voice and to grow your business via social video is taking the time to organically become part of the social culture and the community you want to influence before your start jabbering.

Although these ideas and recommendations may seem overwhelming for small businesses, it is important to take the lead from millennials, embracing social platforms as the new mass media, utilizing the power of video and engaging on appropriate channels with an authentic voice.

Reid Genauer is the chief marketing officer of video editing app Magisto.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock.