How Would I Market to Myself: Marketing to Gen Y Consumers

Recently, I’ve found myself wondering if social media marketers (myself included) are missing a massive opportunity when it comes to marketing to Millennial consumers. With the availability of numerous digital tools and our social media culture, it’s become much easier to interact with the 18-24 year-old demographic. Easier, however, does not mean more effective.

This morning Marc Meyer put out this Tweet:

Twitter - Marc Meyer_1

Since I had just read two articles from the Wall Street Journal and MediaPost stating that only 22% of Millenials use Twitter, and of those, only 29% follow companies, I agreed with him.

Then, Marc asked me a thought-provoking question: How would you market to you?

Good question – one that forced me to separate myself from my day job as a marketing professional so I could think like the 23-year-old kid I am.

Below, I’ve listed several ways I’d like to see companies marketing to me.

1. Rely on Word-of-Mouth. With social networking sites, what you say and do can spread rapidly among my peers. If 10 of my friends become a fan of your page on Facebook, it shows up on my homepage and I’m intrigued, and more likely to click through to your page. Facebook makes this easy with its advertising, but if you can find ways to do this on Twitter and other sites, you’ll certainly be helping out your brand.

2. Add value by being relevant. However, don’t expect everything you say to cause a cascade effect on social media platforms. Focus on adding value rather than overloading on content. People my age are really, really good at tuning out what we don’t want to hear. (Just ask our parents.) The best way to ensure we’re listening to your messages is to make them relevant to us. Learn why we’re in a given community, whether it’s Facebook or Twitter or an iPhone app, and speak to us without severely interrupting what we’re doing.

3. Be conversational. When you’re trying to build awareness about your brand to gain customers, don’t use social media as a billboard but as a telephone. Social media should be an interactive tool, and when your consumers speak, listen and respond. In my experience, the most successful Twitter accounts and Facebook fan pages are those that go beyond simple @replies and wall posts. Ask questions, get our feedback, and implement changes. Everyone likes to have their ego stroked, right? Brand consumers, especially Gen Y ones, are no different. What feels better than having a company listen to reasonable, quality recommendations we’ve made?

4. Offer free stuff. We’re just out of college.  Loan payments are becoming a harsh reality.  If you want us to try out your brand, give us some free samples or coupon codes.  Reward us for being loyal customers by launching programs like all those restaurants do. Imagine if your favorite sunscreen or deodorant had Buy 10, The Eleventh Is On Us cards? I know I’d be much more inclined to consistently buy my favorite brand rather than whatever is on sale, which is what I do now.  Plus, if a company could build an entire online community based on the loyalty rewards system, I’d probably check it out to see what other users are saying about new products/sales/coupons/etc.

5. Give back. Millennials are do-gooders, and we pride ourselves on supporting companies that are good, too. If you can leverage a social responsibility campaign into your marketing plan, make sure the right Gen Y demographics are aware of it. Kind actions certainly make advertising words stick better in my mind.

What else can be added to this list? What companies do you think are already doing a great job marketing to Gen Y through social media? What other ideas are there beyond social networking sites?


13 thoughts on “How Would I Market to Myself: Marketing to Gen Y Consumers

  1. Great response, Meg.

    Another idea I’d add to this list is the social media event tie-in. As a member of Gen-Y, I love being social online. However, I also love being social offline.

    If a brand can tie their social media efforts to an accessible event or popular location within a target market, there is the chance to create some very strong interaction. This could include hosting local meet-ups and offering discounted or free product on site.

    If there is one thing I love more than going out and having a good time, it’s going out, having a good time and being around brands that I like. 🙂


  2. @Brandon – Great addition! I feel as though offline marketing events are often handled by the more traditional marketing/PR departments whereas social media is usually handled by a digital department. The convergence of the two would definitely bring numerous opportunities that would resonate better with people our age.

    Thanks for your comment!

  3. Borderline Gen Y / X…

    You have to be available when I am ready to buy… and how I choose to buy.

    Went by the cell phone store this morning and it wasn’t open. Was prepared to sign a contract and get a blackberry.

    Went to the office and let my IPhone fantasies run a muck … and was able to purchase phone & plan online without waiting in a store.

    I switched cell phone companies entirely because I wanted to buy a phone right now… funny that I still have to wait for it to come in the mail!

  4. Great post, Meg, and thanks for the link!

    I think one of the most annoying things for Gen Y (and everyone!) is interruptive advertising that’s not personalized to me. Even as a blogger I experience this with 3-4 pitches a day from PR firms that could really care less about me. Companies that want to successfully target Gen Y should discover new ways to join the conversation and talk to me. That doesn’t mean getting a Facebook page either, but being much more innovative… Hopefully Alice has done much on your list already, and we’ll provide the innovation on launch as well.

  5. @Cyndee – You’re right by saying availability should take priority in terms of customer service. I think we’ve seen several companies set stellar examples of how to use social media and the Internet to better their CR operations.

    @Rebecca – Personalization is so elemental, I don’t understand how it’s so underused. Personalized content helps build relationships and relationships are what will breed good PR and marketing.

    I also agree innovation always wins over my attention span, but I would still recommend that if companies are trying to target Gen Y, they should develop comprehensive Facebook page strategies. Of course, this doesn’t mean just having one (nor should every brand have one!) – but leveraging ideas that truly build a community of fans based on engaging content, interesting conversations, and innovative games/apps/videos/discussions/contests.

    Thanks for stopping by, and for your valuable feedback!

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