Simon Pilkington
August 1, 2017

Generational Trends: Social Media Marketing for Millennials

Learn how to reach millennials on social media with our top campaign tips to keep you on the same page as this ethical, technologically advanced generation.

Sometimes it feels like millennials just can’t catch a break. Over the years, as they’ve grown into adulthood, their Baby Boomer and Gen X predecessors have relentlessly expressed disgust for millennials and their values (or, as they might say, their lack of values). In their eyes, the way millennials reject conventionality, tradition, religion, and even sometimes politics, has created a generation of lazy, self-absorbed people with poor taste in…well, everything. Especially music. Yeah, people really seem to hate their music.

And yes, it is true that millennials are simply wired differently than the people of any generation before them. I mean, there are differences in every generation, sure. But this one…this one just seems…really different. And they are. Because of one thing: the internet.

Millennials are the first generation to be raised with, on and around the internet. It is why they exist as they exist, function as they function, think how they think, and feel how they feel. Social media, online shopping and marketing are like their brothers and sisters; they were raised alongside them. So say what you will about millennials. But the truth is that if you’re a brand, you’re gonna have a hard time thriving – even surviving – without them (unless you’re selling dentures).

To market to millennials, you must not only understand them, but encourage them to continually embrace who they are. They’re bold and disruptive, yeah, but we at Hello Social get down millennials because at the end of the day, everything they do – or don’t do – comes from a good place. Millennials want a more fair, peaceful, and organic world. So here are some insights into how your brand can get down too.

Be Real, Be Yourself, Be Authentic, Be Quick

This generation may be a lot of things, but there is one thing they aren’t and that’s insincere. In fact, they might even have sinceredar (sincere radar). They can sniff out a fake and destroy it seconds. Or, they can latch on to authenticity for a lifetime and be very generous with their support, loyalty, and even money. Millennials like products, but they like an experience even more. And if you can offer them a sincere experience – whether through your product or your ad or your aesthetic – they will not only support you with their voices, but with their wallets as well.

Unfortunately, one of the challenge in convincing your millennial crowd of your unwavering authenticity is their fickle attention-span. Being so pummeled with ads and sponsored content has reduced the tolerance of this generation to that of an amoebic organism. You have moments to grab their attention so do it right!

This means keep the word count down, work out what is the most valuable point in your post, and make good use of imagery and symbolism. Video content is fantastic at communicating a lot in a short amount of time.

Nostalgia Marketing at its Best

Hint: Think Power Rangers and Pokemon, Polly Pockets and Pac Man, Nintendo 65 and Luigi.

The average millennial spends over two hours a day on social media. So start spending less on commercial shoots and more on your Facebook ads, Instagram stories, smartphone apps and campaign tactics.

Millennials might be tough advocates for change, but they’re also sensitively nostalgic for their past. And it’s important – actually, essential – that you be there to remind them of it. Some of today’s most popular brands have caught onto the millennial’s appreciation for their childhood and have begun to embrace “nostalgia marketing”, a marketing tactic in which brands bring 1980s and 1990s products and styles back to life.


Pokemon Go is probably one of the most popular and successful examples of this. Pokemon is nearly twenty years old now and was wildly popular when millennials were kids. Nintendo, however, has put childhood right back into the hands of millennials by creating a new Pokemon game that is compatible with smartphones. Because smartphones are used by the majority of millennials, and because millennials are a nostalgic demographic, and because the game is just straight up fun, Nintendo has raked in over 7.5 billions dollars.

Nike also brought back an old friend to promote an anniversary edition of the “Hare” Jordans. Using the stories feature they summon up some childhood nostalgia from the Space Jam generation, with everyone’s favourite wabbit ear-dunking a few hoops in this creative trainer teaser.

Get Mobile Friendly. No Excuses!

Younger millenialls have spent their formative years on mobile devices, and with social media usage at record levels (over 87% of millennials on Facebook!), they are increasingly spending time catching up with friends, family and brands they love on mobile.

Most of the new post and ad formats, as well as rising social platforms are totally oriented towards mobile users.  For example, Facebook’s recentcanvas ads take up user’s full smartphone screens and ask them to interact with your brand by swiping, seeking, tapping or turning.

Instagram and Snapchat are the star players in the next generation of social media platforms, which are unbiasedly aimed at mobile users. If you want to access users from this demographic, you need to be active on these platforms, using their stories features, and making sure that your site looks as manicured and professional as the content that they were browsing on the platform before.

You can learn more on how to look great on smart devices by reading our article on how to optimise your social media content for mobile.

Be Funny but “Know Your Audience”

As for campaigns, take a lesson from Snickers. Last year, Snickers reminded brands of the most important rule to marketing: know your audience.

Their Hungerithm campaign was a totally genius way to get the attention of hungry consumers, especially millennials. It spoke and appealed to this creative generation on so many levels by offering Snickers at a lower price depending on what was happening in the world and on the news. If the weather was bad, prices went down. If there was tragedy, prices went down.

This ad not only made Snickers seem empathetic, but educated, good-natured and gave them a very contemporary, respected sense of humor. Not to mention, the video played masterfully to both online and offline advertising. The logic was simple: the angrier the internet, the lower the prices, so as to “up” people’s happiness – or prevent more anger and negativity in the world, which is exactly what millennials live for.

Humour is hard, and it’s not always the person that’s the life of the party IRL that comes across well online. Social media jokes must be relevant to your community, treading the fine lines of satire without overstepping your audience’s key values and beliefs.

Be risque, be provacative, be outrageous, but don’t alienate your audience. If your audience is truly divided on political issues for example, stay away from politics. Plus there’s so much more to talk about than the same old canned comedy from television’s endless social commentary.  Understand your audience and make them laugh over things that unite rather than divide.

Get Ethical

This tip is simple: get ethical. Seriously. Not even just for the sake of your brand, though it will do your brand wonders. There’s really not even much more to say here.

Even McDonald’s has checked themselves and improved the quality of their food. If they can do it, so can you. Without doing this, without letting the world know that you are doing this (and doing it honestly) you’re going downhill. Millennials want you to recycle, they want you to use less plastic, they want you to provide good quality food or products that do not harm the environment or people’s self-confidence.

Take Dove’s “Real Beauty” campaign, for example. For fourteen years now, Dove has only used real people in their ads, as opposed to using tall, skinny models and tons of post-production touch ups. In 2014, over 1.5 million more people had visited their website because of this campaign. Real people got Dove some real results. And that’s real.

All Influencers Great and Small

Many millennial users spend most of their time on second generation social networks such as Instagram and Snapchat, and will likely follow a number of influencers.

The same principles of authenticity should apply to your influencer marketing campaign, when selecting a suitable ambassador for your brand. Millennials are aspiring makers, doers, artists, and activists, so connect with individuals that demonstrate excellence in their niche, but don’t waste time running after Kim and Kanye.

There are thousands of “micro-influencers”, that have a big impact over small communities of fans and followers. If you get smart with your targeting you can reach out to these power accounts and create partnerships that help to grow their audience at the same time as raising awareness for your campaign.

At Hello Social we created anexciting campaign for the Hawaii Tourism Board, working with influencers and micro-influencers to run social media competitions. Entrants could win anything from a pair of holiday shades to the Hawaii holiday of their dreams. With the allure of great prizes, plus plenty of inspirational, authentic travel content, we were able to gather over 5000 competition entrances, and 240 000 engagements on campaign posts.

Master The Meme

At Hello Social we’re all about the meme. Millennials like the internet, they love the internet, but the truth is that you don’t have much time to grab their attention.

As we’ve mentioned, extracting a lol from a generation over saturated with bitesize comedy online can be gold for your brand, but it’s a dangerous game. There’s nothing more cringeworthy than a misjudged joke, floating untouched in cyberspace like a skidmark on your newsfeed.

It’s time to take a long, hard look in the mirror and ask if you are truly hip and funny enough to meme. In fact, maybe ask a few friends, as if you don’t question your own comedy credentials, you might just be that cringey creep from the office snorting gleefully at your own gags.

Dumb dumb dumb dumb, dumb dumb dumb.

Posted by Hello Social on Tuesday, 18 July 2017

If you can get your memes right, they’re great fun, and offer the instant gratification craved by your audience. Our memes target the millennials who are working as digital/social media managers by using a form of content that taps into pop culture as well as nostalgia in a casual tone. We know our market, and the creatives are written by our witty in-house staff that understand #thestruggleisreal for social media managers.

Like we said, we get down with millennials. They may seem caught up and complex at times but, really, they mean well. And they want you to mean well. So if you’re a brand, do yourself a favor and make your Facebooks, Instagrams, campaigns, Snapchats, apps, services and products more than just a business – make it a genuine experience. And they shall come.

Do you have your own ideas for a great millennial campaign? Leave us a comment below or get in touch for help on your millennial social media traffic.

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