Millennials and Social Media: Marketing to Millennials

A group of millennials standing in the background of the article title

The big “thing” seems to be figuring out millennials and how they think, act, purchase, and live. The average monthly search for the word “millennials” on Google is 1,500,000. There are 1.5 million people searching information about our (my) generation and still, it seems that few actually understand this generation of “lazy”, “entitled” young people. Notice those quotes? That’s because I’m not either of those and I know plenty of people in my generation that aren’t either. So let’s talk about millennials and social media and marketing to millennials using our favorite platforms.

First things first, I’m a Millennial. I was born in 1988. My sister was born in 1980. My husband was born in 1980. My brother was born in 1989. One of my sons was born in 1999. So before you dismiss me, I have a bit of insight into the Millennial generation (besides all of my friends). My sister and I used to discuss the differences between “her generation” and mine, because it seemed for a while that she was a Gen Y’er and I was a Millennial, whereas now it seems we might all be the same thing. Everyone seems to think differently, but for this article, let’s just say that 1980 – 2004 (people who are now 13-37 years old in 2017. Let’s just let that soak in a minute, shall we?) are all Millennials.

I kind of wish Keanu Reeves was a millennial. This photo from Bill and Ted's excellent adventure brings back memories.

Millennials and Social Media

I recently wrote about social media ROI and in it, I discuss Pew’s research about where the people live on social media. While we don’t have data on people younger than 18 years old, the research does show us that 18-37 years olds live in a few different places.

  • Facebook, currently boasting 79% of the internet’s adult population also has 88% of the 18-29 year old population and 84% of the 30-49 year old population.
  • Instagram, with 32% of the world’s adult internet users, holds 59% of the 18-29 year olds and 33% of the 30-49 year olds.
  • Twitter, which holds on to 24% of the adult online users around the world, has 36% of 18-29 year olds and 23% of 30-49 year olds.
  • LinkedIn, coming in with 29% of the adult internet population has 34% of the 18-29 year old population and 33% of the 30-49 year old population.
  • Pinterest owns 31% of adult internet users and 36% of the 18-29 year olds and 34% of the 30-49 year olds.
  • Messaging apps, such as SnapChat, What’sApp, Kik, Facebook Messenger, and others, vary in popularity for these age groups. Messaging apps like What’sApp and Kik own 42% of users 18-29 and 29% of users 30-49.
  • Auto delete apps, like SnapChat, host 56% of 18-29 year olds and 13% of 30-49 year olds.
  • And finally anonymous apps, such as YikYak or Whispr own 10% of 18-29 year olds and only 6% of 30-49 year olds.

TL;DR – From Pew’s research link; check out the little infographics.

This chart shows data from November 2016 about Millennials using LinkedInThis chart shows data from November 2016 about Millennials using PinterestThis chart shows data from November 2016 about Millennials using TwitterThis chart shows data from November 2016 about Millennials using FacebookThis chart shows data from November 2016 about Millennials using Instagram This chart shows data from Millennials using Messaging apps

Ultimately, what we’re seeing here is that Millennials are using Facebook, Instagram, LinkedIn and Pinterest, while they also like to use different messaging and auto delete apps like SnapChat, What’sApp, Kik, and Facebook messenger. This is both good and bad news. We know where they like to spend their time, but basically, they are still all over the map, with the largest populations living on Facebook, Instagram, and Pinterest.

So how does this help us?

It helps us because now we know we probably shouldn’t waste time on Twitter. We should probably be spending ad money on one of those larger three networks, two of which are tied together (Facebook and Instagram). Now what we need to know is who are target audience is, so that we can begin targeted campaigns on these networks. But we also need to know what Millennials are buying, and how so we can make it easier on ourselves about how to get a Millennial to open their (e)wallet to us.

Millennials Spend ElectronicallyThis Millennial girl is presumably making a purchase with her cell phone

Apps for everything exists these days, as well as subscription boxes to just about anything you could ever think of. Remember the saying “There’s an app for that,™”? Basically, if it’s not available to a Millennial on their phone, they don’t really want it. We are talking about the generation that grew up with computers and cellphones as they were kids. They do everything with their phones, from researching what to buy (50%), to actually buying what they want through branded apps. With a spending power of 1.4 trillion by 2020, they (we) have a lot to offer retailers and businesses, but only if they provide what we’re looking for.

Lessons: If you’re looking to earn Millennial dollars, build an app to securely house financial information and offer discounts or freebies for using that app. Think like Starbucks. Use Pinterest, Facebook to advertise and spread the word about it.

Personalization and Authenticity

A full studio setup in the middle of a dance floor, showing us what's behind the curtain of this company's marketing and production

We want to know you’re being real; authentic. Talk to us on social media (yes, really), show us what goes on behind the curtain, care about something, and be relevant to us (provide something or a service that we want or need). Hey, we even want you to market to us, as long as you give us options and personalization ability. 56% of us are even willing to share our location with you in order to receive coupons if you’re nearby. If you’re using direct mail, that’s cool, but tie it back to your social media accounts so we 1) know it’s you and not someone else bothering us and 2) reach more of us.

Example: Send out a postcard or other mailer with your social media icons and usernames on it and include a coupon for a free [something that you offer.] When we come in, offer to opt us into a text coupon program for your store, or sign us up for the app you smartly created that will allow us to earn free stuff after so many purchases or amount of money spent, and create our order before we arrive, ready to go when we get there. Be sure to post about the mailer on your social media so we’ll be on the lookout. Some of us may be interested enough to give our address for the next or current offer, if you ask. Add a page to your website that let’s us sign up for direct mail offers, and also tells us (leads us to a download) about the app.

Lesson: Interact with us. We’re interested in saving money and getting cool stuff. Make your offers easy, and make the experience pleasant (and easy). Use social media to spread the word and get to know us.


This wad of cash is something we Millennials enjoy saving

Sidenote to prove my point: I actually went online when I moved into my first house to FIND how to sign up for ad circulars, because I wasn’t getting them. Walmart was ad matching and I wanted to be sure I could get the best prices! But I could only do that if I had the ads from the other local stores. In my hands. At the checkout. I once stood in line for something like 30 minutes because someone had to get a manager to approve a price match (if anyone has ever had to have the cashier at Walmart get a manager, you understand how upset that made everyone behind me. Including me. It was ridiculous.) They stopped doing it in-store, now, but will do it through their appFancy that. So much easier this way, too. I scan my receipt in the app, and it does the searching for me. I get money back if they find a lower price on anything I bought. Not an ad for them, but definitely a good example of what I’m talking about here.

Millennials Want an Experience

81% of surveyed consumers said they visited a live marketing event because they were attracted by a free sample or other giveaway. 72% of Millennials said they preferred experiences over “stuff”. So let’s think about this. How can we create a social media strategy around that?

How about partnering up with a local business that has the same target audience but isn’t a direct competitor, as well as a local fancy or popular restaurant to offer an event where you give away products or gift cards, while the restaurant gives free samples? You can advertise this event to a targeted demographic on Facebook (and maybe This group of Millennials are having fun at an event and taking photos to share on social media.Instagram), be sure to also post about it. Then also offer a chance to win a dinner out with a group of friends or for a couple to the restaurant. First, you’ll make the event an experience, be sure to have people share on social media, have some sort of photographic “draw” that people will be sure to take their photo with and share on social using a predetermined hashtag.


Give away your items, have sign ups for emails in order to get a ticket for the “big prize” (share these emails amongst the partner businesses) and once a winner is chosen for your dinner, surprise the winners. Have the restaurant allow them to choose one of three of their top appetizers or beer/wine, etc. on top of whatever the gift card allowed. Surprise them again later, with a round of free drinks of their choice. Again, give them plenty of opportunity to share this on social media. Have the waitstaff offer to take a few photos, and make it a fun night for these people. The more fun you can make it, the more they will most likely talk — and post — about it.

THEN — Surprise them one more time by FOLLOWING UP. Ask them how they enjoyed the evening and offer to have them come into your store to talk about what products they enjoyed at your event. Post about their opinions. Start a monthly blog/vlog/Snapchat/Facebook Live series where you bring local people in to discuss what they love or don’t love about certain products and how your products do X, Y, and Z. Let them be real and people will love you for it.

(This can even become an annual event, where you can attract new customers and make loyal ones happy.)

Lesson: I really don’t have a lesson aside from the fact that we like experiences we can share with our friends. I just gave you a marketing idea. Lol! (BTW, did you like that idea? Hire me! 😁)

Other Ideas For You to Use in Your Marketing to Millennials Using Social Media

  1. Pick one active and engaged follower or fan a day/week/month to bring to your brick and mortar for a free try out of any product/service they choose. Announce it on every platform. Post photos, videos, etc.
  2. Pick an active and engaged follower/fan on Snapchat once a month to bring into your store and let them experience a day in the store (or maybe during a team outing, showing your company culture to the customer. “What we care about”), taking Snapchat stories on their own account. Promote their account on yours and share a few choice snaps or stories.
  3. Create a “panel” of customers once a month to talk to on Facebook Live about your brand/services/etc. Ask them about what they think is good and bad, what can be better. Promote their social media accounts or websites (if they aren’t in a competing space).
  4. B2B customers – Get authentically connected on social (meaning, get to know them) and invite them to your space for collaboration purposes. Brainstorm with them about their needs, questions, problems. Offer them a complimentary audit/service for their help.

Do you have any other ideas or campaigns that have worked really well for you? 

Other Marketing to Millennials Resources–the-multiplier-effect.html


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