At each of the last three presentations I’ve given on content marketing an audience member has raised their hand and asked the exact same question:
“How do we market to Generation Y?”
This question is always prefaced by some stat or idea regarding Gen Y’s disinterest in building relationships or a personal connection with the people and brands they do business with. I’ve found this to be a very common perception about the habits of the Generation Y consumer with mid and small business owners
Now if we believe that Generation Y is truly not interested in building relationships or finds no value in a personal connection with the brands they do business with then this would be a huge problem.
…fortunately I think the idea that Generation Y isn’t interested in building relationships with the brands they do business with is complete crap.
What these audience members were really asking is:
“I have no idea how to harness content marketing or social media and the idea that an entire generation of consumers are using these tools scares the shit out of me… What am supposed to do?”
Now this is a question we can work with. This version is honest and represents a solvable problem.
Here’s the solution…
Why Generation Y doesn’t exist
I’m a member of Generation Y and most of my friends are members of Generation Y. I can tell you, with conviction, that the consumers of Generation Y are starving for deep relationships and personal connections with the brands they do business with…
…but then you would also have to believe that Generation Y exists.
I do not.
Not as a marketer at least.
As a marketer there is no such grouping of people as Generation Y or Millennials or Generation X or the Baby Boomers for that matter.
As a marketer, especially a marketer who’s expertise is content marketing, these generational groupings have no bearing on how we position our value message.
Today there are only two generations:
The Connected Generation defined as individuals willing and open to communications, building relationships and ultimately make buying decisions based on digital content and interactions.
The Unconnected Generation is everyone else. Common requirements of Unconnected Generation consumers is the necessity for in-person transactions, unwillingness to communicate via email or other digital tools and general skepticism about the Internet.
Nowhere in these two generations is there any defining characteristic based on the year a person was born.
According to Socialnomics the fastest growing population on Facebook is 45-55 year olds with almost 55% of this population now active users on Facebook. That’s elder Generation X, younger Baby Boomers… They shouldn’t be on Facebook? They should be reading the newspaper, listening the radio and waiting for the postman to drop off the day’s mail.
Isn’t that the characterization we lay upon this population?
The only way to explain the fact that this grouping of consumers is the fastest growing on Facebook is that age doesn’t matter when it comes to digital adoption.
You either communicate, build relationships and make buying decisions online and are thus part of the Connected Generation or you do not… whether your 17, 37 or 67 makes no difference.
Marketing to the Connected Generation
We know how to market to the Unconnected Generation already. All the traditional marketing techniques used by businesses for 100 of years work on the Unconnected Generation.
- Cold calls
- Newspaper advertisements
- TV commercials
- Radio ads
- Direct mail
These are just a few of the traditional interruption style marketing efforts that are crucial to attracting the Unconnected Generation. Again it doesn’t matter the age, consumers who don’t leverage the Internet are unaware of the products and services available in the market unless their life is interrupted with advertisements or unsolicited phone calls.
But this isn’t a guide to marketing to the Unconnected Generation, we already know how to do that.
5 Content Marketing Tactics the Connected Generation Can’t Resist
The Connected Generation wants to know that there is a human being behind our brand. Building intimacy into our content marketing strategy is actually very easy… just interject a bit of your personal life. You have kids? Mention them. You like the Buffalo Bills? Describe your sorrow. You do homemade taxidermy? Weird, but I’m sure there’s some interesting stories.
The point is, a little bit of personality… a little bit of behind the scenes… a little bit of who you are as a person builds intimacy with readers and the deeper relationship the Connected Generation is looking for.
2) Vulnerability / Humility
Failure can often be our most powerful content marketing tool. The ability to admit the mistakes we make and help others learn from those experiences shows vulnerability and humility. The authority we’re trying to convey through content marketing loses value if we can’t admit and be honest about failure. No one believes we are perfect and by showing vulnerability and humility we disarm our audience.
When we step off our soapbox and discuss the years of struggling and learning it took to achieve our expertise, success becoming more attainable to our audience… and we’ve positioned ours self to be a resource.
3) Rich Media
The Connected Generation wants to build deeper connections with the brands they follow and do business with online. A stock photo stolen from Google Images and 450 words of text can only do so much to build relationships. To take relationships deeper our content needs to move past text to audio, video and slideshows.
These types of larger works (throw quality eBooks in the mix as well) show dedication and commitment to your work, a trait the Connected Generation is looking for.
4) Social Proof
Not every piece of content with value to your business will be created by you. Testimonials, recommendations and reviews are the Connected Generation referral. The testimonials, recommendations and reviews you collect on your own website as well as on review sites Google Local and Yelp are vital to convincing the Connected Generation your business is legitimate and trustworthy.
This is called social proof and its must have component in marketing to the Connected Generation.
Comments and customer feedback are vital content marketing tools as they provide a completely different yet equally powerful form of social proof. Comments happen on your blog, on social media outposts like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Google+ and through email marketing.
Comments are truly where the magic happens in content marketing. Comments are the conversation that used to happen solely across a desk. When the Connected Generation is willing to comment and have conversations with a brand it shows engagement and the brands they’re engaged with, they do business with.
The Connected Generation needs a completely different form of content marketing than we’re used to as marketers. The Connected Generation is searching to build relationships through the content they consume.
By transforming our content marketing tactics we can develop a strategy that Connected Generation consumers cannot resist.
Thank you and Good luck,
SPEAK YOUR MIND: How do you market to the Connected Generation? Disagree with my argument that there are only two generations? Love to hear from you!