I’m a millennial. One of those generation Y types, ya know?
To be completely honest with you, it’s something about which I’m fairly excited. While the aforementioned might be a rather damning admission in some professional circles, in my line of work – and yours, if you frequent this blog – this can openly be considered a true point of pride.
The communicative field of content marketing is currently thriving because of the very principles millennials hold near and dear.
Sure, we’re not the most disciplined or organized of the human race, but what we lack in hard responsibility and respect, we make up for in confidence and dual collaboration – this is where content marketing magic comes into play.
Truthfully, though shades of content marketing have been around for quite some time, the reasons for which content marketing now trounces traditional marketing are heavily linked to the millennial movement and mindset.
Coming to better understand millennials
With all this talk of millennial values floating around on the Internet, it’s often assumed that everyone already knows what they’re about, what they stand for, what makes them tick and what motivates them.
Seeing as how millennials are only an estimated 5 years away from making up over 50 percent of America’s workforce, it’s a good idea to spend a bit of time on this and not just assume something that might be more fiction than fact.
And no, I’m not referring to any of those random, idiosyncratic statistics about student debt, religious affiliations and credit history; the things that content marketers have used to make their craft of choice resonate with America’s most loathsome demographic.
Simply put, there’s more here than meets the eye.
Here’s a hint:
Image Source: Fusion 360
That said, before getting too far ahead of ourselves with all of this, let’s make certain we’re working with the same definition. According to the Pew Research Center, “For the purposes of following a cleanly defined group, millennials are defined as those aged 18 to 34 in 2015.”
Ages are nice, but as far as you’re concerned, the real driving force behind Millennial consumerism is what it’s worth.
Obviously, this isn’t an all-encompassing list, but more often than not, the largest, most educated generation in Western history finds meaningful direction in the following items:
But wait, where’s all the negative stuff, right? Yes, laziness, entitlement, self-absorption and domineering narcissism often rear their ugly heads, but it’s best to focus on the positive with this group.
After all, you’re a content marketer, and as you’ll soon see, a great deal of your industry’s success comes from what millennials believe in.
Don’t poke the beast.
The hard specifics of content marketing
As a practice, content marketing is shrouded in mystery. Think about it – just as few are the people who could actually give you the technical age range for millennials, so too could hardly anybody provide you more than a solid guess as to what content marketing both is and accomplishes.
Add buzz phrases like “brand journalism,” “search engine optimization” and “growth hacking” to the mix and you’ve got a world of confusion and glittering generalities on your hands.
Content marketing, as defined by the aptly-named Content Marketing Institute, “…is the marketing and business process for creating and distributing relevant and valuable content to attract, acquire, and engage a clearly defined and understood target audience – with the objective of driving profitable customer action.”
Great. We already know this. Nothing too jaw-dropping.
But what you might not have originally taken into consideration is how closely millennial preferences match up with what content marketing is all about.
1. Interruption has been replaced with listening
How? Well, for starters, at its core, content marketing is innately progressive in its drive to distance itself from traditional advertising.
In the past, advertising has always been about interruption. Honestly, apart from the Super Bowl, when was the last time you wholeheartedly welcomed a television commercial? Exactly.
Content marketing couldn’t be more different. In fact, as opposed to interruption, content marketing focuses on listening. Millennial voices want to be heard. They want to be understood.
That compassion of which was previously made mention? This is part of that.
Few are the young people who chose $30,000 of debt straight out of college, opted to enter a difficult job market or decided that it would be best to still not have a credit card.
All this while many parents, professors and employers provide little in the ways of real, concrete advice; instead, preferring to site slothfulness and preemptive privilege as their situations’ main culprits.
Look, I’m not throwing the world’s first millennial pity party, but with all of this in mind, there’s a better way for digital marketers to approach millennials. Remember the old adage that goes something along the lines of, “Out with the old, in with the new”?
In short, this is content marketing.
Though baby boomers and old-timers sometimes fail to listen, content marketers have seen a chance to improve their worth.
Presenting a well-defined purpose, answering difficult questions in real-time and providing digital content that will interest, intrigue and inspire youthful consumers is all part of the greater listening process.
Vans, for example, does a great job of honing in on their millennial target demographic. In the company’s 49 years of existence, it’s learned how to listen to what its clients really want.
Image Source: Search Engine Journal
Speaking of Vans, says Christopher Ratcliff, Methods Unsound’s Head Editor, “Vans does an excellent job in tapping into its own cultural heritage and providing a social experience that is in turn aspirational, inspirational and nostalgic.”
Furthermore, with respect to social media, Vans provides “a mutually beneficial exchange, the brand defines the community and the community defines the brand.”
From Apple and Gatorade to MTV and Pom Wonderful, numerous are the mega brands that have chosen to wholeheartedly embrace content marketing and the way it appeals to millennials.
2. Distracted minds find comfort in visual media
By chance, if you haven’t, this is no joke. In just over a decade, the average human attention span managed to plummet from 12 seconds to only 8.
Currently, goldfish are holding strong at nine seconds.
Understandably, in a world filled with smartphones, tablets, laptops and personal desktop computers with enough power to send a man to Mars, this is bound to be the case. Basically, this is the world millennials have grown up in.
For this reason, those of generation Y love technology. With what the generation has always had at its disposal, it’s simply more practical.
Reportedly, this makes perfect sense, seeing as how 76% of them use their smartphones for multiple hours a day, and 90% of them are active on at least one social media network.
Newspapers and magazines used to give people the media kicks they craved, but millennials now demand to be reached in a unique, more adventurous way.
Even what we’ve come to recognize as the pioneering platforms of social media – namely Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Pinterest – are giving way to new channels like Instagram, Snapchat, Periscope and Meerkat.
Heck, a simple email is considered monotonous if it’s not packed with visual stimulants like BuzzFeed-esque GIFs and memes.
Image Source: @mikewohlwend
This isn’t groundbreaking stuff, though. I get that digital marketing trends come and go, but visuals – especially video – are unlikely to go anywhere anytime soon.
In just over a year, actually, the amount of shared Facebook video from both generic users and commercial brands increased by 3.6 times. Breaking things down even further, per Facebook user, that’s 75 percent more video posts in just one year’s time.
Likewise, with Twitter, as relayed by Jesse Mawhinney of HubSpot, “Tweets with images receive 18 percent more clicks, 89 percent more favorites and,” shockingly, “150 percent more retweets.”
Image Source: HubSpot
So, if you’re competing to win the already dwindling attention spans of millennials, you better have a photo, graphic or video to help your cause.
Otherwise, they’ll just go back to their handheld devices and forget you and your company ever existed.
3. Personal customization is of the utmost importance
I hate to say it, but millennials want to be in control of something every now and again. Parents may disagree that there’s a real need for this, but it’s true. Imagine if you yourself were at the heart of an ongoing dialogue that branded you a lazy, narcissistic, apathetic couch potato.
Wouldn’t be too appealing, now would it?
Instead of sitting back and just taking repeated metaphoric blows of character, millennials have developed a stranglehold on the digital content they consume, whether it comes from a blog, social outlet or website. In reality, it’s unlikely they will relinquish it any time soon.
Praising millennial media consumerism out on the World Wide Web, says Nick Blunden, global managing director of The Economist, in an interview with AdWeek,“There is this incredibly powerful influencer generation.”
Sounds promising, huh?
“And if you engage with them in the right way, and you create content for them but you accept that they’re going to want to customize, curate and remix that content and make it their own and pass it on, then that’s a really interesting opportunity.”
Quite the adventurous group, if you ask me. But Blunden doesn’t stop there.
He goes on to call the most influential sector of millennials “Gen-Narrators” due to their insistence that they be in charge of the content that’s coming their way. Blunden’s two other groups are known as “Followers” and “Amplifiers.”
The chart below clarifies what these millennial subsets are all about and what content marketers need to know about them when building targeting strategies:
Image Source: AdWeek
By providing millennials with the necessary content to build, maintain and grow their own personal brands, your company’s content marketing can be more effective than ever. Seriously, sometimes it’s best to take a backseat to things and let them take care of themselves.
I’m aware of the fact that more than a few elderly, wiser readers have either stopped reading this post or spent the entirety of this piece subtly rolling their eyes. Whatever the case, the principle of the matter remains the same: millennials and content marketing go together rather well.
Whether you’re an older, more conventional marketer with decades of experience or are just now getting your start in the product and service pushing trade, be sure to construct any and all content marketing strategies in a way that appeals to your audience.
Think of them and what they want. Get beyond the clichés and mind-numbing stereotypes. It seems simple enough, but rarely takes place.
Needless to say, when millennials are involved, this shouldn’t be too pressing of an issue. Fortunately, while certainly a flawed group, they are the future. And, from where I’m sitting, the future is most assuredly a bright one.
Now it’s your turn: what do you think about the above assertion – Is content marketing really the perfect approach for sharing a brand’s message with millennials? Hop on down to the comments section below and share your thoughts on the subject.
Guest Author: Lucas Miller is the Founder of Echelon PR. When not writing, editing or running, he’s working tirelessly to perfect what he claims is the “World’s Greatest Pompadour.” Additionally, for what it’s worth, his editorial works have been featured on Social Media Today, Business2Community, Ragan’s PR Daily, Spin Sucks and many other top-tier PR publications.