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Marketing to Millennials: 4 Tips for Your Brand

It’s hard to believe how drastically social networks like Facebook have evolved since their debut. I’m dating myself here, but, when I first created an account on Facebook, it was only designed for college students. In fact, not every college or university was even involved at that time. We all know how the network has transformed itself to include multiple generations today. However, as the demographic gets “grayer,” the youngsters are less involved.

According to eMarketer, the 65+ demographic will increase more than any other demographic on Facebook through 2016. Interestingly, as this trend happens, the 18-24 crowd will decrease on Facebook. Intriguing data, huh? This chart from Sprout Social shares even more insights into Facebook’s demographics:

Sprout Social Chart

What’s happening is the Millennial Generation, also known as Generation Y, is getting their social media desires filled on other networks. Pew Research defines this age group as the 18-34 group. Some of this shift is probably due to the fact that their parents and grandparents haven’t made it to these new channels yet.

Still, these trends pose quite the challenge for marketers, especially since activities of the upper and lower ends of the millennial group are likely very different. Some marketers may think they’re in the clear and that they don’t need to reach this crowd since their products and services are for older age groups. Not to be the bearer of bad news, but in a few years, this millennial crowd will be your target audience, so it’s important to do your homework and be ready to capitalize when the time is right. Otherwise, negativity could be associated with your brand leaving you with even bigger problems.

It’s a competitive game, but connection and engagement are possible. The following tips should help:

1. Think before You Speak

A prominent characteristic of the millennial crowd is its strong ability to be heard. For the past ten years or so, we’ve been hearing how blogs, forums, and social networks are outlets for ALL voices. Marketers have embraced and encouraged a two-way communication channel in order to engage, gather feedback, and ultimately, be better marketers.

But, these voices mean that we, as marketers, have to be on our A game. Hasty doesn’t work. Somewhat relevant content will not do you any favors. And complete misses will be damaging. These reasons are why it is of the utmost importance to take a breath and think through what you’re posting before you hit “Enter.” This doesn’t mean that you can’t piggyback on a relevant newsy trend, but it does mean that you have to apply smart marketing. If you don’t, the voices could come back to haunt you.

2. Don’t Be a Friend Instead of a Parent

Who remembers a parent in school that tried too hard to be a friend? It doesn’t work, does it? You can be a cool parent without crossing over that line. The same logic applies to brands connecting with the millennial crowd on social media. Don’t be the brand that uses “wicked” methodologies to try to connect with your audience, because it won’t work.

A brand can be relevant and current without forcing it. By being true to your brand, you show credibility and consistency. If you do this, the lingo and pop culture reference will happen naturally.

3. Be Short, Sweet, and to the Point

Do you ever wish for a simpler life? I’ll admit that I do. Unfortunately, for the majority, life has us on the fast track. In other words, you have very little time, if any, beyond fulfilling your needs and maybe dabbling into your wants. This means that, even when you have a minute to play on social media, you don’t want to take the time to read a paragraph from a brand or watch a 10-minute video. You want something quick and easy to digest that provides a solution, answers a question, or that is just helpful information.

This is where marketing skills really come into play. If you have a lot of information to share, tease it. Give your audience a reason to dig further, which is what you want anyway.

4. Don’t Lump Millennials Together

This is a serious mistake that marketers tend to make since the millennial age group covers quite the range of ages. At the lower end, this group includes people still college. And at the upper end, it could include people who are married, with children, and with a decade+ experience in their careers. Simply put, you need more in your toolbox than just emojis.

It requires you to do market research and segment within this audience. There will be times that there will be crossover, which will make your job a little easier, but often, the content will need to vary and be customized per segment.

In summary, marketing with social media channels was never easy, but it has definitely gotten more challenging as society, businesses and consumers have evolved. Today, consumers, especially millennials, are complex. Yes, this means marketing is tough, really tough. But, it’s not impossible. Brands like Ford, Pepsi, Doritos and more are doing it wonderfully.

If you think about this evolution, that many of us marketers advocated by the way, the expectations of millennials are not surprising. Millennials want more than a logo, they want human elements, and they want to be part of your brand experience. Isn’t this what marketers preach all the time? Sounds like we need to step up our game to practice what we preach.

Marketing Just Got Smarter, Thanks to Yelp

Online reviews are continuing to grow in value as consumers are gaining trust in them. In fact, BrightLocal’s 2013 Local Consumer Review Survey found that 79 percent of consumers trust online reviews as much as personal recommendations. Yelp, Angie’s List, Yahoo Business Listings, among others are some of the most popular sites, but social media channels including Facebook and Twitter are growing in value to become recommendation services for small to medium sized businesses.

As if there’s never a dull moment in the marketing world anyway, Yelp recently made an announcement that really shakes up the industry. The review site that was created to allow consumers to talk about businesses is now going to allow them to talk directly to the companies. In a blog post, Yelp said it would soon begin allowing individuals to message businesses as well.

New Yelp Feature

The logic is that, apart from the written comments, photos, ratings, and some videos, there are some questions that still come up. For consumers that prefer to not pick up the phone, the messaging functionality will allow them to send their question or comments over to the business. In turn, the business will receive the message via email.

The feature also gives consumers insight into how long the response time is for the business they want to message. For example, the wait time could indicate immediate responses or up to a few or several days for replies.

New Yelp Message Feature

Yelp cites Wade Lombard, founder of Square Cow Movers in Austin, TX, as he explains his experience with the new ability: “This feature is a conversation starter. Responding takes just a few minutes and it almost always leads to further correspondence or a phone conversation. We believe that responding quickly helps to show the client we deeply care about winning their business.”

The new feature is now rolling out for all businesses. However, businesses that do not wish to receive messages can simply disable the capability.

Marketing Impact

For businesses, this new feature is both exciting and challenging. On the exciting front, it provides a means to make a direct connection with target audiences. It also opens the door for longer and more meaningful conversations. Yelp is essentially adding a further human element to its offerings. The communication that results impacts not only the individual who sent the message, but it also provides valuable data that businesses can analyze and utilize to improve their products and services, which will ultimately better meet their target audience’s needs.

In spite of all the positive connections and relationships that could result from this new ability, there is also a challenging side. These challenges come since consumers’ expectations have now skyrocketed. For instance, consumers live in a real-time, Twitter-centric world, which means they expect answers immediately. Yes, your response time could be up to 2 days, but to be frank, many consumers may not care and choose to not give you business AND leave a bad review.

There is the point, of course, that businesses can turn this feature off, but it may be hard for them to dispel all the opportunities that come with leaving it intact. The fact of the matter is that, because the value is so great in the potential customers that may be built through this communication, it forces another layer to the every-growing marketing mix.

Time will tell what the true impact of this new Yelp feature will be, but we, as marketers, need to be proactive and make the proper adjustments to accommodate these types of features. This is just a hunch, but my guess is that many similar features are on the horizon.

Listening Is Always Key in Meaningful Conversation… Online Too

 

Listen - hand

 

In a day and age where everyone has a voice and wants to be heard, the concept of listening is getting harder and harder to put into practice. Marketers have been talking about the importance of listening for years, but it has almost become a reverse approach given the trend to be heard. So, what’s the deal? Is it a catch 22?

Just like so many other areas of marketing, there needs to be a balance in listening versus being heard. If you’re so focused on pushing your message out to your audience, then you may speak too soon and find out the hard way that you are not connecting with them. On the flip side, if you spend all your time listening to what your audience is talking about but you fail to jump in when you have the opportunity, you also miss out in effectively positioning yourself. It’s a balancing act to get it right, but it pays off.

Listening sounds so basic, but it is so hard for some people to do. Have you ever tried to have a conversation with someone that interjects themselves every couple of minutes so much so that you never really get to state your point? It’s one of the most annoying things, especially since the people that interject themselves usually seem to be “know-it-alls.” In the online marketing world, the equivalent of this type of behavior is, for example, when a shoe retailer reaches out to everyone with foot complaint with “buy our shoes now!” talking points. It’s annoying in person, and it’s annoying online.

So, how can you really listen and have it mean something?

First, understand what it is that you want and need to be listening to. As social networks have grown, the noise level has also grown. Define your target audience through conversations that are already happening and that you wish you were part of. This weeding process could also come, in part, from offline resources as well as online.

Secondly, identify who you should be listening to. This aspect really helps you sort through the noise. Companies should look at their customers, overall consumer trends, influencers in the industry and competitors. These perspectives will provide valuable insight into what current and potential customers want and what your competition is doing, so you can effectively engage in conversation.

Thirdly, create a monitoring system for listening. Whether you use Google Alerts, keyword lists on Twitter or other paid tracking alternatives, this will help you avoid scrolling at your computer all day long looking for conversation. Again, with so much information, you need a means for dissecting the information that applies to you and your brand.

Once you’ve implemented these practices and have some data, you will then be able to start participating in the conversation. As you begin this process, you must remember that it is a conversation. This may seem elementary, but spend 5 minutes online and you’ll know why I’m saying it – the conversation must be a natural, 2-way communication in order for it to work. You can’t shove your product or services down someone’s throat every time they mention a need. If you can be of help to them, it would be much more effective to send them a link to a blog post stating why your methodology behind building your product, for instance, is sustainable, durable, etc. as opposed to sending them a link to your product page. To make your conversation meaningful, you must set yourself up as a valuable resource, expert, or something that will keep people engaged before and after a sales transaction takes place.

Effective listening sets the stage for this type of conversation. And once you begin, it becomes natural. This is when companies can move in and capitalize on opportunities.

During the Grammy’s that took place last month, popular roast beef chain Arby’s executed this beautifully. The company’s social media manager “listened” and saw that many people were relating his brand to Grammy winning artist Pharrell Williams on Twitter. Seizing the opportunity, he jumped into the conversation not by convincing the artist to buy a sandwich or become their spokesperson, but by being relevant and contributing to what was already being said.

Arby's Tweet to Pharrell Williams

As a result, the tweet was retweeted more than 83,000 times and also included a reply from Pharrell. What’s more, other brands like Pepsi, Quaker Oats and others retweeted it too. It proved to be a huge win for Arby’s gaining the company more than 6,000 new followers.

Twitter Interaction during Grammy's

This is why listening is so important for your marketing strategy. It leads to conversation and potential wins such as Arby’s had recently. It takes time, but other than that, it’s one of the easiest but most powerful assets to your marketing efforts, so start listening.

10 Years of Facebook & Its Influence on Social Media

“…People often ask if I always knew that Facebook would become what it is today. No way.

I remember getting pizza with my friends one night in college shortly after opening Facebook. I told them I was excited to help connect our school community, but one day someone needed to connect the whole world.

I always thought this was important — giving people the power to share and stay connected, empowering people to build their own communities themselves.

When I reflect on the last 10 years, one question I ask myself is: why were we the ones to build this? We were just students. We had way fewer resources than big companies. If they had focused on this problem, they could have done it.

The only answer I can think of is: we just cared more.

While some doubted that connecting the world was actually important, we were building. While others doubted that this would be sustainable, you were forming lasting connections.

We just cared more about connecting the world than anyone else. And we still do today.”

Above are the words of Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg. It’s been 10 years since his dorm room project came to life. And what a decade it has been! We’ve witnessed tremendous growth, transformations, impact, business capabilities and even an IPO. But, as anyone knows that has even somewhat followed the social giant, the past decade hasn’t just been a bed of roses. There have been challenges and backlashes along the way including privacy concerns, competitors, legal issues, financial alarms and more.

Facebook CEO and Founder Mark Zuckerberg

But, 10 years in, Facebook is a successful, global company that has had a tremendous impact on all society. We would be here a very long time if we went back through all the Facebook milestones and the effect they have had on both the company and overall culture. But, we do want to take a little time to reflect on the big picture of Facebook in the past decade, and more importantly social media and the role it has played.

To do this, let’s back up. In 2004, when Facebook was built, what was your social media life like? At this point in time, MySpace was a big deal, forums were hot, instant messaging platforms such as ICQ were all the rave and Friendster was a means to connect with people online whom you already in the offline world. Other platforms such as Orkut, LinkedIn, and Classmates, among others, existed as well, but the social evolution that we now are familiar with was not present. It was then that blogging really started taking off too.

For me, I remember being in college and getting asked if I had Facebook from a few of my friends from other colleges and universities. I had no idea what it was. But, when it became available to my university, I readily signed up. Funny thing, I remember it blowing up across campus to the extent that there were rumors the president was going to ban it. I was part of the on campus news station, and in covering the event, the overall student response was: “My life would be over if they take Facebook away.” I wonder how many people view Facebook in this same way today…

As Facebook began to grow among the college crowd, it then expanded to include high schoolers, and shortly after, everyone. Although this move took the social network to the next level, Charlene Li from research firm Altimeter Group tells CNET it was “counter-intuitive.”

“If [Zuckerberg] had asked users, “What do you want?,” they would have never said “Add my parents,” she said.

She’s right, but we know now that it was successful for the company that now has more than 1.25 billion users and a reported $2.59 billion in revenue this past quarter. However, beyond this, I think it’s fair to say that social media would not be what it is today if Facebook were not a factor. Like it or not, Facebook has largely influenced the overall social media marketplace. Think about how social we are in everything we do from shopping to cooking to sharing opinions to conducting business and the list goes on and on. Though some would say, if Facebook hadn’t come around, something else would have. While this may be true, the circumstances would still be different. For instance, would MySpace have remained a leader? Whether it did or didn’t, would the road have still been paved for Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest and others to enter the social space?

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Though history does not allow us to answer this question, it is clear that Facebook has been very formative in molding social media as we currently know it.

Now, the question becomes, where will it take us next?

“…I’m even more excited about the next ten years than the last. The first ten years were about bootstrapping this network. Now we have the resources to help people across the world solve even bigger and more important problems.

Today, only one-third of the world’s population has access to the internet. In the next decade, we have the opportunity and the responsibility to connect the other two-thirds.

Today, social networks are mostly about sharing moments. In the next decade, they’ll also help you answer questions and solve complex problems.

Today, we have only a few ways to share our experiences. In the next decade, technology will enable us to create many more ways to capture and communicate new kinds of experiences.”

Zuckerberg does not give us any exact information on the next 10 years of Facebook in his above post, but he does indicate that it will become smarter and create new experiences. Hopefully, the social network will continue to grow and transform the way consumers act and think. It’s already helped develop an industry that not only connects a large portion of the world and provides a very valuable tool for businesses, but it also has created a whole new job market.

There have been many headlines declaring that the younger generation was abandoning the site, but new research from Pew shows that 73 percent of children ages 12-17 are Facebook users. So, while Facebook doesn’t appear to be going anywhere but up, it is possible that it could diminish in value at some point. IF this were to happen, the impact is has will still be felt, which is an awesome concept. The way people communicate, react, think, and ultimately, live has been revolutionized in the last decade, all thanks to the influx of social media and led largely by Facebook. Will the next 10 years hold as many changes? We’ll see, but I, for one, am so excited to see where it takes us.

How has Facebook impacted you? Does it play a large role in your life? Has Facebook changed the way you communicate? Could you live without it? Is there a particular event in which Facebook changed your life for the better or worse?

Images courtesy of Facebook.

Getting on Board with the Future of Social Media, Mobile & Tech

 

What's the Future of Social Media and Tech?

During the holidays, Fisher-Price released a baby bouncy seat called the Newborn-to-Toddler Apptivity Seat for iPad that, yes, includes an iPad holder. Is this too much? Or, is it just a natural segue into where society is headed in terms of technology. Fisher Price has been widely scrutinized by children’s advocates amid cries of “babies need laps, not apps.”

Regardless about how you feel about this particular issue, the incident feeds to bigger speculation about where technology and social media will take the next generation. It’s an interesting thought to consider.

A recent study from Ooyala, a digital video provider, found that mobile and tablet video consumption grew 133 percent year-over-year. This is huge. We’ve known for a while now that “live” TV wasn’t what it once was with the ability to record shows for later viewing and download and watch them online. But, to see this kind of growth means that user behavior is changing rapidly.

The same is true for social media. We live in a society that accepts “selfie” as a word. Instead of communicating through a note or even a phone call or email, the new way of communication is through texting or services like Snapchat.

Last summer, the Huffington Post ran an article explaining why social media is a serious threat to the professional future of today’s children. Though the article has some good points, we at SugarSpun, do not believe that social media is a hazard (Duh!). Yes, there are things that teenagers and adults alike are posting and sharing across social media that could be detrimental to their future careers. But, social media isn’t to blame for this. We, as a society, do need to do a better job of educating the younger generation on the permanency of content, but this is no different than content posted anywhere else on the Internet.

The truth is that we are definitely going through a transitional period. Communication has and will continue to change. The hottest tool today may or may not be that cool tomorrow. But, this isn’t bad. While this could mean that we’ll soon find ourselves feeling like we’re living in real-life SCI-FI film or TV show like our SugarSpun president loves so much to watch, it also opens doors for new development and innovation.

Take us, for instance. The majority of our business involves social media. Since it has blown up – and is still continuing to – it has created an entire new marketplace for people like us to create vocations around. Also, similar to when the Internet and blogging first started to emerge and began to give introverts a voice, the same is true with social media.

Business Impact

What does this mean from a business and marketing standpoint? For one, it’s clear that the next generation could likely take us to, what we currently think, is a SCI-FI level. Kids today are growing up in a world where they virtually never have to watch commercials and can always watch Netflix while driving down the road. If my 2-year-old niece can clearly navigate an iPhone and iPad and thinks that a phone call is FaceTime or Skype, then her generation is going to go even beyond a touchscreen stove.

Next Generation Whirlpool Stove

But, all this also means that if social media and technology integration is not a big part of your plan, then you need to make adjustments. We’ve said it before, and we’ll continue to say it until we’re blue in the face – social media is not going away.

It’s a new year, but have you really made changes to the “way you’ve always done business”? Yes, there is a place for consistency, as we talked about last week, but beyond this, times are changing. Having a successful, modern business today is so much more than integrating social media. It’s all about the mentality. Are you breaking down the walls and being transparent? Are you being visual by utilizing tools such as video, infographics, Pinterest, Instagram, etc.? Are you becoming an information source and expert instead of just a destination spot when a customer needs something? All these things and more will help you come through this transition period on top.

Whirlpool image courtesy of Mashable.

Why Social Media Is NOT a Fad

Oh my. Here we go again. The question over whether or not social media is a fad has been sparked once again. A few years ago, this debate was really hot as social networks – namely Facebook and Twiter – were figuring out how to monetize their services. It has died down in recent years but, every once in a while, it gets revived, which is what is happening now.

To understand why social media is here to stay, let’s back up to the days before Facebook and Twitter. Even back then, social media existed. At this point, it primarily consisted of forums. Then, between 2004-2006, blogs really began taking off. The glory days of MySpace, of course, fell into this time frame too.

Although forums had been around for years, an interesting shift in communication began taking place over the course of these years. As this occurred, people, meaning regular, average Joe individuals, started realizing that they had a voice. These regular people could connect and converse with their peers. And as a result, these conversations provided value.

With the power of this concept starting to sink in, the shift in communication began to evolve. What helped this concept grow and evolve even more, however, was largely due to free blogging platforms such as WordPress and Blogspot as well as LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter coming onto the scene.

As these events started to unfold, businesses also started seeing changes. Now that essentially everyone had a voice, their job became harder. Businesses could no longer dictate the message they wanted consumers to hear. The roles became reversed.

At this time, businesses started seeing the true value of new media and began embracing it. If you fast-forward to today, all social channels have grown exponentially. Businesses that recognized the shift in communication early on are finding that social media is simply an extension of their traditional marketing strategy. Others that have been late to the game are playing catch up. And, of course, there are some who have yet to join in that will, unfortunately but likely, face many challenges when they realize the importance of social integration.

The “fad” factor comes into play as there are so many new social networks being introduced in today’s world. There are a LOT of social networks in today’s world. From image-based networks to video-based networks and beyond, it’s incredibly hard to keep up with them all, especially when they are geared toward very niche verticals.

Will one of these rise up to become the next Facebook? It’s possible. But, at this point, no one knows. Back in MySpace’s day, most of its users probably thought it was here to stay. The trend, however, changed.

With Facebook, it is somewhat different. While it is true that Facebook is losing some of the younger generation of users, this doesn’t mean that it’s dying. Facebook is still the go-to place for many users next to email. In fact, recent statistics from Digital Marketing Ramblings show that Facebook has 1.15 billion users, and 699 million daily active users. Does this sound like a site that’s dying? It is certainly possible that Facebook may not be around at some point. But, it doesn’t seem to be headed in this direction any time in the near future.

More importantly, even if Facebook goes away, there will be another network(s) that everyone will be using. Unless the communication model moves backward, which in all honesty is next to impossible, social media is here for the long haul.

A new study from Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project shows that social media usage among U.S. adults has risen 800 percent in just 8 years. Also among noteworthy news, Twitter users have grown 125 percent since 2010.

Pew Internet Study

On the business side, a study from the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Center for Marketing Research shows that the corporate world gets that social media has immense value too:

Fortune 500 Social Media Usage

All these reasons are more than proof to squash the “Is social media a fad?” debate. Instead, how about we focus on making the current social platforms better for businesses to succeed?