Content for Millennials

This piece is the second installment in our Reaching A Millennial Audience series.  See part one, here.

With childhoods spanning decades of rapid technological advancement, a millennial audience is too large to generalize as a single group.  An older millennial is likely to have very different tastes and opinions from a younger one, not to mention additional influence from personal life experiences.  As discussed in 5 Things to Keep in Mind When Selling to Millennials, however, this vast size is exactly why companies must reach this section of the market.  In the age of Upworthy videos and Buzzfeedlists, millennials clearly consume content like Cookie Monster chows down on Samoas.  It would be a shame to let such enthusiasm be wasted on Charlie’s biting habits rather than strong, thought leadership content.

Multi-Channel Inbound Marketing

For such a wide audience, it only makes sense to use a wide range of media channels.  Words are great, but it will take a great deal more than well written lines to make a millennial pay attention for five minutes.  Infographics and images, videos, audio broadcasts, GIFs, and Vines seem to work well for cat media, so why not useful content from companies?

A great advantage here is that a single idea for a blog post can spawn many pieces of content.  Lists, for example, can be turned into infographics and slideshows.  Infographics can be animated into videos (provided you have a good designer on hand).  Images can be used to inspire GIFs with a higher potential to go viral.  A ‘multi-channel’ approach to content also makes it easier to share and more likely to be passed on.  Going through ten slides on Slideshare is, after all, a lot faster than reading a full article.  If those slides are popular, they can then act as a catalyst to funnel viewers to the original blog post or article.

Champions of Good Causes

Millennials have a reputation for going a little overboard with the spending.  The truth is, growing up during global economic pandemonium has made many of the them (at least the responsible, paying customers that your company is targeting) far more frugal and stringent than prior generations.  Still, millennials do have a weak point – they are willing to spend money on a good cause.

With an almost self-deprecating Robin Hood Syndrome, Millennials are very particular on how they are willing to spend their (often meager) salaries, but are also willing to bend this number if their extra $5 will go toward feeding hungry children.  Advertising has generally revolved around explaining to customers why a product will be useful to them.  Millennials, with their reliance on the internet, generally know what they want and why they need it already. Traditional advertising, therefore, is lost on them and they need something more to justify making a purchase. Knowing that paying extra for a pair of TOMS shoes will give a free pair to somebody in need, for example, is sufficient justification for paying the premium price.

Personal Brand Vs. Organizational Brand

On the flip side, while championing a good cause is important, brand name recognition means very little to millennials.  Because they can easily find the differences between products based on online descriptions (and can see when said differences are minimal), they are generally unwilling to spend extra for a better-known organization’s brand.

Personal brand, on the other hand, is taking center-stage very quickly.  Millennials are looking to connect with a person and their beliefs rather than just a logo. A big advantage that Apple had over Microsoft, for example, was Steve Jobs.  Although he was viewed as somewhat of an enigma, it was the man who was and is heavily admired rather than just his logo.  Steve Jobs’ personal brand has had a huge hand in defining and growing Apple as a trustworthy name.

Obviously, you don’t have to be Steve Jobs to be able to successfully establish a personal brand within your company.  Just keep in mind that your audience wants to hear from you, and not just from your company.  If you have a blog, identify the writer of each piece with a byline or author bio.  If you use email marketing campaigns, close them with an employee signature instead of just crediting the whole team.  A main function of company generated content is the establishment of trustworthiness. Content that provides advice, information, or even provocative insight, makes larger ripples coming from a trusted source rather than just a name on a wall.

It is difficult to pin down an appropriate variety of topics that millennials are interested in, but there are a few principles to write by that will increase the reach of your company’s content. Taking advantage of multiple channels will take your content to viewers who may have otherwise missed it in the mountain of articles available.  Keeping in mind that millennials love reading about how they can make a difference instead of how your product can help them ensures proper engagement rather than dismissal as spam.  Focusing on personal brand (by the content’s creator rather than the company itself)  will further capture the audience’s attention and keep them on board as they become followers.  Content has the power to engage an audience beyond the parameters of just the company’s product – something that is particularly applicable to a millennial audience that is looking for more.