Supercharge Your Small Business Marketing: How to Market to the Social Media Generation

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Imagine using the internet since your hand was large enough to hold a mouse, and you can’t remember a time before MySpace or Facebook. Imagine you’re part of a generation that makes up most of the voting population and workforce.

The social media generation doesn’t need to imagine these things. This is their reality.

Six years ago, Millennials overtook Baby Boomers as America’s largest generation. And, their unique approach to buying (not to mention their spending dollars) impacts how we market.

So how can businesses reach this vital group of consumers?

Traditional advertising is not the way to go. Matthew Tyson reports:

Only about 1% of millennials claim that a compelling ad influences them. The rest are almost naturally skeptical of advertising. They think it’s all spin, so they don’t bother paying attention.

It only makes sense when considering how many ads they’ve been exposed to. Promotions just become untrustworthy white noise. So, if ads are out, what’s in? Michael Brenner explains:

Everyone wants millennials’ attention, loyalty — and ultimately, their dollars. Earning those takes consistency and consideration. I found that content marketing is at the heart of both of those keys to success with this generation.

In other words, you need to learn how to write for and market to the social media generation.

“But, wait a minute,” we hear you say… “Millennials don’t read! They have short attention spans, and they can’t be bothered.”

Forget everything you think you know about the social media generation.

Millennials do read.  A Pew study found that the 18-29 year age group read more books per year than any other age group reported.

But they read differently. In addition to reading books, the social media generation reads electronic media. Tons of electronic media.

Social media: if you want to reach Millenials – that’s where you need to be – providing content for the social media generation right on their home turf.

But not just any content. Quality content targeted to millennials.

Are you ready to take your business marketing to the next level? Here’s how you can effectively reach Millenials.

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Good design matters

The social media generation grew up with the Internet. They’ve been viewing websites their entire lives. It’s effortless for them to quickly determine if your website design is not up to par. Inklyo, online writing experts share,

Online content marketing tycoon Hubspot reported that Internet users judge the aesthetic value of a website in as fast as one-fiftieth of a second. That snap impression is particularly influential on Millennials, who, according to Millennial Marketing, will actually reject quality content if the visual effect is poor.

This is a real problem. And the numbers back it up. 94% of online users report that they distrust and dismiss websites with poor design. 75% say that web design determines their perception of a company’s credibility.

You might be surprised to learn that people’s attention spans are remarkably short. As we wrote previously:

The attention span of a human adult, according to BBC News, is 9 seconds (the Associated Press reports that in 2012, the average attention span for a human was 8 seconds). Nearly one fifth of all page views in 2012 lasted fewer than four seconds. And to add fuel to the fire, people read only approximately half of the words on a web page that has fewer than 111 words (and only 28% of the words on a web page that has more than 593 words).

Don’t let poor website design undermine every word of your valuable content.

Do This: Optimize your web design to create trust in your content and brand. Read 6 Ways User Interface and User Experience Design Can Help Your Business.

Share authentic content

The social media generation is the most media-saturated group of consumers the world has ever seen. From childhood, they’ve been exposed to tv commercials, pop-up ads, banner ads, radio ads, and billboards. It should come as no surprise that millennials have learned to see through the hype amidst the constant barrage of advertisements.

In his article, Millennials Want Brands to Be More Authentic. Here’s Why That Matters, blogger Matthew Tyson shares:

Traditional advertising literally has no effect on me. It doesn’t influence my buying habits whatsoever. In fact, I feel comfortable saying that I’m completely immune to it. And if you’re a millennial like me, there’s a good chance you’re immune to it as well.

Here’s why: Millennials don’t trust advertisements.

A survey by NewsCred backs up Tyson’s observations. According to the survey, nearly a third of millennials reported that “…they’re more likely to buy a product if the brand’s content isn’t sales-y and instead feels authentic and truthful.”

Younger buyers prefer honest interactions with genuine, authentic brands. This can tell you a lot about how to interact with them and earn their loyalty. Transparency and honesty are essential.

Spare millennials the polished hype. Instead, share content that reveals something about you and your business. Tyson recommends,

Open your business up a little. Show what’s happening behind the scenes. You can’t do all your work behind closed doors and expect millennials to trust you.

Young buyers want to see and know the people involved in the brands they buy from. Faceless corporations engender no trust. Show your company’s humanity.

So, how does this translate to content and marketing messages?

The majority of your content should not be promotional. Instead, ask yourself what your audience wants or needs to know. Then tailor your content to their interests or help them solve everyday problems.

Also, take the time to share updates about your company’s triumphs and exciting new ventures (assuming they’re genuine, of course). Share your brand’s journey to help build trust.

And, when you do write (less frequent) promotional content, speak from a position of truth and honesty. Show your audience how the product will benefit their everyday life without the slick hyperbole. Your product or service’s quality should be able to stand on its own.

Do This: Prioritize sharing the human side of your business and genuinely valuable topics over promotional content.

Honor their social media roots

The social media generation grew up with social media. Let’s unpack what that means – and how it should affect your writing style.

People use social media to interact with friends and family casually. That’s what it’s for. Content marketers are just hitching along for the ride.

Writers who want to capture a Millennial audience would do well to honor the informal, conversational tone of social media itself. Inklyo observes:

Unlike the older Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, Millennials respond best to content that reads as if it’s been written by someone similar to themselves—friends, family, even strangers—rather than by “experts.”

You may be an expert. But, that doesn’t mean there’s any need to talk down to your readers. Write for your audience with the same enthusiasm you feel when telling a friend about an exciting discovery in your field. Keep your tone conversational and approachable.

Jennifer Maerz of the American Press Institute points out:

As Millennials come to much of their news and information through personal conversations and social feeds, they expect news content in a tone that feels at home in that conversational space. Young consumers will follow media brands expressing relevant perspectives with an approachable tone.

Create an approachable tone by writing conversationally and getting to the point quickly with direct, active language. While fun for the writer, Flowery composition only serves to create an artificial barrier between the reader and author. And, it’s a massive turn-off for authenticity-seeking Millennials.

Do This: Use concise language and an informal, conversational tone. Treat your audience as peers.

Mind your bias

People – especially older generations – like to paint Millennials and their younger counterparts with a single brush. And, it’s generally not a flattering one. Words like “narcissism,” “lazy,” and “fickle” are floated about.

We probably don’t need to tell you that maintaining stereotypes like these will hurt your ability to write content that resonates with a millennial audience.

William Cummings of USA Today reports:

While there’s nothing inherently wrong with using Millennials as shorthand for young Americans, we can get into trouble when we attach characterizations and assumptions to it. Critics like Siva Vaidhyanathana, a media studies professor at the University of Virginia, question the social science behind the claims made by generational experts and argue generational labels can propagate prejudice and stereotypes.

The social media generation is made up of countless unique individuals. And viewing them as anything less will make your content’s impact suffer. Michael Brenner writes:

With data and the media constantly barraging marketers with tales of millennials being finicky and uncommitted, it’s easy to think that bothering to treat them as individuals — rather than en masse — will not deliver the return on investment you seek. That logic, however, just isn’t true.

It’s not enough to write for a target audience of “Millennials.” It would help if you wrote for an even more specific audience – your audience. Maestro reminds us that:

As important as it is to keep your prose style clear, informal, and concise, it’s just as important to remember that 18 – 34 is a wide age range. The way you’d write for an audience of single college students should be different from how you’d write for business professionals with husbands, wives, and children.

Give equal consideration to subject matter. Your writing can be more relaxed and casual in an e-learning module for fashion eyewear sales associates than in a course for new investors. Know your audience, regardless of what age they are.

If you want to sell to young, up-and-coming accountants, write content for them. If your ideal customer is an edgy, young retro pin-up fashionista, write content for her.

Who is your ideal customer? Target your content and tone to them.

Do This: Leave your stereotypes at the door and get to know your audience. Then write specifically for their interests and needs.

Think “fast” and “scan-friendly”

The social media generation is used to getting their information quickly. Google speedily fetches whatever they want to know, whenever they want to know it. If you’re going to keep up, you’ll need to deliver information quickly.

This doesn’t mean that Millennials only want to read blurbs and snippets. Long form articles perform well with them. But, it does mean that you should make it easy to find the point. According to Inklyo:

The most successful blog posts are those that are structured so that the main points can be gleaned from a quick scan even if you don’t read the entire piece. Headings, subheadings, lists, and graphical content are all excellent ways to guide readers to your post’s critical information in a hurry.

Compose your content so that readers can easily find what they’re looking for with a quick scan. This forces you to make sure your content is well-thought-out and cleanly organized – which makes your content easier for all readers to digest.

Do This: Structure your content with helpful visuals (lists, subheadings, etc.) that highlight your main points quickly.

Make it personal

We’ve already discussed that Millennials are looking for authentic interactions with their brands instead of traditional advertising. So build some genuine relationships. You can do this by showing off the people behind the curtain.

Michael Spencer, in “How to Write Copy that works for Millennials,” points out:

Many corporate blogs don’t highlight the people writing the content enough. Millennials like to identify with and know about the people behind the brand. Millennials are people-centric and not as brand loyal, so part of making content more authentic is making the tie with the people in the stories, and the writer themselves is a big part of this.

One way to build these relationships is to encourage your content writers to share pieces of themselves in their articles. Sharing personal details reveals the person behind the words.

For instance… My name is Katie; I’m an Aries, and I have a new puppy making it hard to focus on writing this article right now.

Joking…! Probably.

Ideally (unlike my example above), the personal details you share would relate to the topic being discussed. The information you share must be relevant and organic. Remember that the social media generation is hyper-vigilant against contrived connections (like advertisements).

Spencer suggests another way to build rapport between a writer and their audience:

Having a copywriter who interacts with comments with empathy builds rapport and socially animates the discussions that can result from the content.

Hitting “Publish” and walking away is a missed opportunity. Allow your audience to leave comments and, for goodness’ sake, respond! This is a chance for your readers to truly interact with your writer and your brand.

Building relationships based on real interactions – well, it doesn’t get more authentic than that.

Do This: Build audience rapport by sharing personal details in your writing and stick around to answer comments.

Social media has made an indelible mark on our culture – and shows no sign of stopping. Today, social media’s influence is setting us on a long-lasting trajectory that will impact us for years to come. So get ahead of the curve.

Embrace the changes that social media has wrought and adapt your marketing accordingly. Accept that a slick, professional facade with a gooey human center is out and brands with authentic human interactions are in.

Write for your audience as though they’re your friend. Be real.

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