Marketing to Millennials and the Necessity of Social Brand Advocacy

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The Baby Boomers were the first generation with ‘The Trust’ broken at the institutional level. Gen X followed, with ‘The Trust’ broken by individuals. The broken collective trust has evolved to where Millennials don’t trust anything except the people they know. From the evolution in the way Millennials view concepts like education, employment, ownership, the common good and how brands connect to them, the rules in marketing to them have fundamentally changed.

These changes, mixed with omnipresent digital connection delivering thousands of pieces of content, advertisements, selfies, messages and more, means the way brands approach connecting to Millennials has to change to succeed. The short version – if you aren’t getting Millennials past the ‘Moment of Trust’ using social brand advocacy and word-of-mouth, your marketing efforts are screwed.

Consider these 6 facts on Millennials:

1) Ads don’t influence them. Only 1 percent of Millennials state their trust of a brand is swayed by an advertisement. They take whatever steps they can to avoid advertising because they don’t view it as authentic.

2) Their friends on social media and blogs are their sources before purchasing. Only 3 percent of Millennials look to traditional media – television, magazines, and newspapers. They look to blogs, what their friends say on social media about a brand, and other sources where they find an authentic look at a product or a brand. What others are saying about your brand defines it and is 8 to 10 times more powerful than your ads or content.

3) Authenticity matters more than content. Marketers have been told “Content is King” and we’re in the “Content Marketing Era.” Only one problem here and it’s a big one – even if you’ve got the best content, if they don’t trust your brand, they won’t bother looking at it. Studies show 43 percent place authenticity over content.

4) Brands have to engage on social media. Engage is the operative word here … not broadcast, not simply have a presence, but engage: 62 percent say if a brand engages with them on social, they are more likely to become a loyal customer.

5) They want to help. By help, they want to be an active part of co-creating products and the direction of your company. Mixed in their belief in corporations needing to be more focused on the common good, there is a sincere belief that their input, if focused on the common good, needs to be valued.

6) They’re brand loyal. We’ve found that 60 percent of Millennials are brand loyal. But how they arrive at your brand requires gathering trust in your brand from others and they are very willing to share their experiences with yours to help others gain trust.

Looking at those facts, even if you didn’t have the other problems in social media marketing – low organic reach, rising paid media costs and measuring business impact, it’s clear that having real social brand advocacy and social word-of-mouth is core to the success of your brand marketing efforts.

In building authentic brand advocacy, all those elements come into play – sharing of the brand story and their experience with those in their social media circles and blogs, adding authenticity to the experience to build trust, sharing brand content that gets greater engagement and action because it is considered trusted, engaging with your best fans and customers via social media, getting insights on new products and messages, activating their involvement in the greater social community and building a sustainable, loyal following.

Setting all those pieces in motion provides a growth in brand equity – where the collective word has rippled out to move more people past the ‘Moment of Trust.’

Social brand advocacy isn’t limited to any generation, but with Millennials, it’s absolutely critical in reaching this group with ever-growing influence to build brand relationships with them now that could stick for generations to come.

Jeff Ernst is CEO and president at Smync, has built, grown and managed sales and marketing organizations in businesses of all sizes, with over 20 years of marketing and management experience. Connect with him @TheJeffErnst and on LinkedIn.

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