Ever since social media elbowed its way into our online lives, marketers and brands have been striving to use social platforms to push content and engage young people. But if Facebook's recent report into marketing for millennials is anything to go by, they're not doing a very good job.
So how do we gain the attention of our millennials? The trick, it seems, is for advertisers to harness some of the ingenuity that millennials possess when it comes to creating engaging online content.
Some are doing this by 'buddying up' with successful You Tube vloggers. Take vlogger of the moment Zoe Sugg (aka Zoella), the 24-year-old online sensation who has brands falling over themselves to pay her for a product plug within one of her broadcasts.
However, online partnerships are not the only way millennials are helping brands to tune in to the youth of today. Many now involve their target audience as part of the actual process of content creation.
Co-creation of content
This process of co-creation, as it is becoming known, is already reaping rewards for those who have worked out how powerful it can be. Co-creation of content isn't necessarily for the faint hearted – after all it involves an element of allowing individuals outside of the company walls to have a say about your brand. But co-creation isn't about relinquishing all control.
The key to effective co-branding is in allowing the audience to feel a part of the campaign whilst still retaining the element of overall control. It can be a win-win situation – by giving millennials the opportunity to co-create, you're automatically fostering a relationship that can lead to brand love and long-term loyalty.
Oreo did this to good effect earlier this year at SXSW, by turning tweets into treats. Festival-goers (a large proportion of which fall into the millennial demographic) were able to create personalised cookies, based on trending Twitter topics and with the use of a 3D printer. The concept was a massive hit. The trick here, and for all brands looking to attract a millennial audience, is to involve them as part of the marketing output so that, once hooked in, they willingly share their message amongst their peers.
Millennials hold real power as online content creators. They are digital natives who understand the social landscape as they understand (or understood) the layout of their school. They know where the cool kids hang out, where the geeks can be found, what's being talked about, and what isn't. On social media, millennials understand what kind of content their audience wants and the places their audience are, so they know where they'll find interest and amplification for what they want to say.
This ability to find their audience on the highways and byways of the internet isn't the only reason for their success – authenticity also plays a key role. No matter how bizarre the content, millennials carry an authentic voice that isn't manufactured.
All of this is important considering that online content is now being placed at the heart of many a marketing campaign. Above-the-line advertising efforts are shifting to attract a consumer who is far more responsive to brands' marketing content across digital, and open to relevant content being surfaced wherever they are online.
Social media will evolve
And to the sceptics who suggest that social platforms have reached the peak of their popularity and will therefore begin to decline as a viable marketing channel, this simply isn't the case. Despite social media behemoths like Facebook reporting a drop in user numbers, social media will not disappear, it will simply evolve. From walled garden platforms based on one-upmanship, to channels for UGC curation and ephemeral IM-based mobile functionality, the chance for advertisers to connect with their audience in one way or another will continue for a long time.
Rather, evidence suggests that social media is displacing television as the major channel with which audiences consume content. According to GlobalWebIndex's report on Global Media Consumption, the internet now makes up 57% of global media consumption. People are spending more of their media time on social than they are watching television already. A fairly unsurprising result of millennials expending more of their time on digital rather than traditional media.
Natural born content marketers
Millennials have become natural content marketers because digital and social media are not an add-on, they are integral to how they live their lives and how they identify with the world around them. As a result, they can develop content with 'Reach' and 'Engagement' brands and marketers can only envy.
One day, these millennials will be the next breed of marketers and brand managers. Once this happens, online content marketing will truly come into its own. In the meantime, we can try and better understand how we can effectively find our audiences and deliver authentic content that accurately represents what our brands have to say.
- Geoff Gower is Executive Creative Director at ais London