Jeff Fromm
President
FutureCast
@JeffFromm

On Millennials: Agile Content Marketing will Replace Social Media Marketing

Marketers are often pegged with questions related to the future of social media such as: Is Facebook still relevant? What’s the next social platform? Which is more powerful: a like, share, re-tweet, favorite?

While these are all fair questions, attempting to grade the social landscape in this manner is counterproductive and missing the greater point.

In a Millennial-inspired Participation Economy, Social Media Marketing is Dead.

Now, I didn’t say social media is dead– just the idea that social media as the primary marketing strategy is no longer an effective way to connect with and engage Millennial consumers.

While it is true that Millennials are the heaviest users of social media and are 2.5 times more likely to be early adopters of new digital, social and mobile tools, they are using social media in a different way than their Boomer and Gen X predecessors. However, what drives brand engagement for Millennials is not just having a presence in the digital environment, but rather the content that informs, inspires and engages them through different channels. Your approach to content is what will make or break your marketing communication efforts in the future. Social Media is simply one way to activate your content strategy.

Re-Imagine Creative Excellence within a Content Excellence™ Framework

For the past 40 plus years, the great brands of yesterday were focused on creative excellence. They “heated, beated and treated” their communications to craft the perfect message then pushed those messages out via various shotgun methodologies, hoping to build brand awareness and regard for their cherished product. This method was developed specifically for the boomer generation.

Boomers, unlike their Millennial children, are more inclined to react positively to traditional advertising – newspaper ads, TV and radio spots and the like. While these methods may still build awareness within the millennial demographic, they are rarely interactive or engaging enough to inspire true Millennial brand love. Ultimately, awareness alone will not correlate in any way to extra-ordinary and sustainable financial performance.

What may accomplish those goals, however, is a strong content driven campaign. The phrase “content marketing” has recently been making headlines but very few marketers really understand the true definition of content and how to utilize it in order to engage the Millennial audience. Content is essentially the communication consumers choose to spend time with.

Think of content as an opportunity for your brand voice to live everywhere you are not. We used to think of advertising as a means of communicating a message to a target audience. In this way, traditional advertising messages were limited to their specific medium. Millennials, however, are the first generation to be considered digital natives and they have transformed the market so that consumers experience brands in a fluid way. Advertising is no longer limited to just one medium. If I am a Millennial, I may be doing work on my computer, while checking Facebook on my phone, all while I am listening to my premium Spotify account. This means that as a brand, there are constantly multiple channels to reach a consumer at any given moment. Content is about the message, the context, the opportunity to share it and my sense of how your brand helps me connect to something more than your product (does your content inspire a sense of purpose?).

Your content strategy should be about activating and engaging your digital community in ways that traditional advertising never could.

We Live in a World of Agile Content and it Fuels Engagement

The brands that consistently create the most agile content will experience the most positive millennial responses. Agile content brings the real-time communication piece into the content marketing game. This type of content allows brands to be nimble and up-to-date with current trends and conversations. Brands that incorporate agile content into their marketing plans are constantly checking and reevaluating their progress and success.

In order to better understand how agile content works, let’s explore this concept through the lens of a standup comedian.

First, the comedian writes their jokes. S/he typically knows what gets laughs and what doesn’t, but with new material he never knows for sure so he books smaller venues in order to test his new sketch.

During the first performance, his main joke does not get the response he thought it would. Immediately, the comedian altered the joke and the second time he told it the crowd could not stop laughing. His agility and ability to reevaluate his performance based on audience reaction ultimately lead to a successful performance.

Like the comedian, brands must be able to think rapidly and constantly revise the content they push out. The key is to utilize data in order to create actionable content strategies.

Traditionally, brands analyzed what consumers did in the past to predict the future. Now, agile data combines consumer, product and social data that allows brands to study Millennial actions and behaviors in real time in order to gain insights that can be utilized to create content that is even more engaging than it was two hours ago.

Focus on Creating Content that is “Shareworthy” and Meaningful

Millennials have a major peer affirmation theme and they share what interests and inspires them not simply what big companies want them to share. Think about how agile content is constantly being recreated based on consumer responses. The goal is to ultimately create content that Millennials want to share.

The idea of content being “shareworthy” is nothing new. Marketers used to encourage sharing by word-of-mouth. This trend is strong with Boomers and Gen Xers but is taken to a whole new level when we bring in the digital native millennial generation. As a result, today we talk about “word of mouse” rather than word of mouth. The “share” is no anomaly; we’ve just shifted environments where people are sharing. Remember, I said social media marketing is dead not social media. Millennials especially are sharing their opinions on their personal pages and have no qualms about being brutally honest when it comes to their brand preferences.

Millennials are also more likely than other generations to share branded content if they relate to it or it somehow affects their life.

Remember the Seinfeld “Break Up” Episode? George says, “It’s not you; it’s me.” The “It’s not you; it’s me” principle is key. Sharing is rooted in peer affirmation. When a Millennial interacts with a brand’s content, they think about how they personally feel about themselves when they share that content with their friends, family and random strangers (remember this is the “selfie” generation.)

The great brands of tomorrow will create direct and meaningful content because if the content created does not have a place in the Millennial’s life, they will skip over it and move onto content that does.

The most shareworthy and meaningful brands will absolutely have the highest probability of sustained economic performance because those will be the brands people choose to interact with.

If You do it Right, They’ll do it for You

In the future, the most successful brands will leverage the relationships they have with consumers so that the consumer is essentially doing the marketing for the brand – at their own time and expense. Think about the User Generated Content that has popped up all over the Internet. Starbucks does not ask Millennials to take pictures of their Pumpkin Spice Lattes (yes, it’s that time of year again) but they are doing it anyways. Those pictures are shared, liked, retweeted and regrammed – not by Starbucks but by the Millennial’s friends. In a matter of 140 characters, that millennial has just become your top branded content curator.

Millennials are leading the pack when it comes to content engagement but with them are Boomers and Gen Xers. Although Millennials are the primary influencer when it comes to digital campaigns, other consumers are taking on a Millennial Mindset™. This means that although they are not technically a part of the millennial generation, they are consuming brand messages in the same way as Millennials. Ultimately, as Millennials come to expect content driven campaigns more and more, the rest of the population will soon follow suit.

Jeff Fromm is president of FutureCast, a Millennial marketing consultancy, contributing writer for Forbes, PSFK & American City Business Journals. He frequently speaks about millennial consumer and marketing trends to leading professional organizations as well as public and private company events. Jeff is the co-author of “Marketing to Millennials; Reach The Largest & Most Influential Generation of Consumers Ever” (2013) and his new book “Marketing to Millennials as New Parents” is forthcoming (Q2 2015). Jeff has 25+ years of hands-on experience with brands, including SONIC, Hallmark, Build-A-Bear Workshop, KC Masterpiece, Sprint, Whole Foods, Warsteiner Beer and Payless. Leah Swartz, a Millennial & writer, also contributed to this post.

Next: On Millennials: Communication and Engagement are Smaller Parts of a Larger Equation by David Arabov, CEO and co-Founder, Elite Daily

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