millennials use of social mediaDo you find yourself constantly competing for your kids attention? When you are having dinner, or at a movie or sitting in the car trying to have a conversation? I do. All the time. It is a constant source of irritation for me because as a divorced father I really don’t get to spend that much time alone with them. But no matter how much I try, how much I threaten to take their phones away, it doesn’t seem to work.

Then something happened. I was reading Brian Solis‘ new book, What’s The Future of Business, and his description of the connected consumer. In the book Brian writes about Generation Y, also known as millennials and how important they are becoming to our economy. When he started to describe how these millennials think and act and live, it was then that I came to understand why it is so hard for my kids to put their phones away. See they are different from us. They are constantly connected and communicate differently than we do. They don’t call on the phone, they text. They watch TV with two or more electronic devices and talk about the shows over public social networks. They look to see where their friends check in before they decide where they are going for the night. They post photos on Instagram and wait for their friends reactions before they decide to buy something. They are not shy about sharing their thoughts and opinions online. They are more connected on Facebook than your average user (646 Facebook friends versus 140 for the average user).

Millennials also shop and interact with brands differently. They hate advertisements and are very savvy when it comes to social media marketing. They engage with brands they identify with and become loyal advocates for those brands as long as they feel they are getting some value in return.They recommend products to their friends and share their opinion freely with friends and strangers.

So why should your company care? What is it about millennials that make them so important? Here is why: By 2017, Millennials – those consumers now in their mid-teens to mid-30s – will have more spending power than any other generation. They will form seventy-five percent of the work force by 2025. Only 7 percent of Millennials work for Fortune 500 companies, the rest prefer to work for start-ups and small business. Take a look at this infographic from Bazaarvoice to get a better understanding on how social media influences millennial shopping decisions

Generation Y communicates, connects and purchases differently than most of your customers today. You need to figure out how to reach them. You need to figure out how to engage with them and turn them into loyal advocates for your brand. Without understanding what is important to this generation and what matters to them as customers, brands are not able to engage with them and create meaningful relationships.

That brings me back to the story about my daughters. Last time I was with them, instead of telling them to put their phones down or they would be punished, I started to ask them questions. I asked them how they decide what clothes they want to get. How they find out about new products or new brands. I asked if they text with their friends when watching tv or going to the movies. I asked what social networks and services they use and what they use them for. To my delight, they put their phones down and started talking to me. They excitedly told me about their socially networked lives and that of their friends. They truly appreciate that I am interested and that I want to understand. As a result, I now have a better understanding of their connected world and they in turn have a deeper appreciation for my work.

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