Millennials haven’t left Facebook, but they use it differently

This article was originally published on Friday, June 24, 2016 in the Sacramento Business Journal.

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We’re all aware that Facebook has reigned supreme among social media for years. According to Facebook stats, as of March 2016, the platform enjoys 1.65 billion active monthly users.  However, its usage among millennials has recently been called into question as other social media apps become more popular. As business leaders and marketers, we now ask ourselves where to direct our strategic marketing efforts in the social space. Even if millennials aren’t your core target, you should be thinking about them because according to population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau, millennials have overtaken baby boomers as America’s largest generation. Therefore, with millennials large numbers and growing buying power, when trying to reach them, the question is: Do you shift your focus away from Facebook given all the hype that suggest you do so?

The answer depends on your goals and how much effort you’re willing to put into the pursuit.

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Subject to scrutiny

It’s true that millennials no longer rely on Facebook as exclusively as they once did. Facebook used to be the go-to platform for them to post about their daily lives, but as the social network’s popularity expands, so does its audience demographics. Now that parents, teachers and employers have become active on the platform, it no longer works for some users as an ideal place to interact authentically with friends and acquaintances.

Millennials realize it’s now necessary to present a reputable persona on Facebook, a fact that limits the carefree content-sharing behavior they’re used to exhibiting. In response, they turn to other social platforms that offer a greater sense of privacy for digital sharing, making apps such as Instagram and Snapchat more appealing.

New habits

While they have begun sharing more personal content on other social platforms, millennials still spend the bulk of their time on Facebook. According to ComScore data, millennials spend 2.5 times more time on Facebook than on the next-closest social network SnapChat.  Facebook still serves as an attractive resource for staying updated on the lives of family and friends, makes relevant news easily accessible via links and videos, and is a great source for entertainment. This makes it an ideal platform for content browsing, a practice that millennials employ with ease.

Similar to channel surfing on television, content browsing allows users to swiftly peruse and evaluate content options on Facebook and other platforms without a predetermined destination or objective—out of habit, they scroll through their news feeds with an open mind, eager to stumble across something of interest. This represents a tremendous opportunity for businesses and brand advocates that are willing to put in the work to earn millennials’ attention.

Be newsworthy

Millennials are drawn to content on a personal level, so whatever you produce should connect with their values and lifestyles. It should grab their attention in a meaningful way and inspire conversation. “Filler” Facebook content focused solely on selling and promoting your products and services won’t pass muster with millennials because they’re too savvy to be drawn in by inauthentic self-serving messaging. In fact, mediocre content can discredit your brand and may prove to be a waste of marketing time and budget, so take the time to curate and contribute something of value to your social community.

Surprise your audience with content that prompts them to stop scrolling. If you are recruiting, think about posting a company culture video instead of a job listing. To increase product sales, consider new, compelling and creative ways to address pain points. When you hope to boost engagement and generate conversation about a topic, invite your audience to share their own stories in a way that connects organically to your marketing and business goals.

Above all, prepare to deliver an authentic experience across multiple touch points. Your millennial audience is intelligent, perceptive and eager to scroll past content that puts forth little effort or seems to promise one outcome but deliver another. This is true on Facebook and every other platform, including other media.

While their activity on other platforms continues to rise, millennials haven’t abandoned Facebook. But they’ll have no trouble shifting their attention away from your business if you don’t learn to play by their rules.

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