5 Content Marketing Tactics the Connected Generation Can’t Resist

content marketing tactics

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
  • Referrals
  • Newspaper advertisements
  • TV commercials
  • Radio ads
  • Billboards
  • 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

1) Intimacy

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.

Consider adding:

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.

5) Feedback

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 Rub

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,

I am Ryan Hanley and if you enjoyed this article you’ll love the Content Warfare Newsletter, get it here.

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!

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  • http://www.rjmasters.co.uk Richard Masters

    Hi Ryan

    I enjoyed your piece and found it thought provoking.
    I have two daughters and have noticed a big difference between them. Th older one is very much in the generation Y mould – she loves sharing (oversharing?) and participating in Facebook and Twitter etc.
    However, my younger one looks down at this old “old fashioned” she and her friends prefer direct one to one sharing via direct messaging systems using her and her friends, now ubiquitous smartphones. They tend to find that open sharing and the intrusion of brands on for example on Facebook an intrusion into their intimacy. Maybe this is genration Z. They see intimacy as a one to one thing and private. Who knows!

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley


      Generation Z… Damn I wrote the post 5 days ago and it’s already outdated! Seriously though your younger daughter is definitely part of the Connected Generation. She’s just using different forms of Social Media (i.e. instant or text message and Twitter).

      This generation has grown up with social advertisements interrupting their online experience and are completely sick of it.



  • Jennifer Cunningham

    I agree that there are only two generations of consumers. I should be reading the paper or listening to the radio. I have stopped both because I’m too busy reading content on the Internet or at one of the social sites. I’m looking for the answer that fits me on a new blog and I can’t tell you how many hours I spend reading–so inefficient, 20 blogs that say the same thing. Everything you said sums up how I purchase. Thanks. Now to give my voice to increasing traffic @ funjobsforseniors. Stop by and say hello.

  • http://www.aznetmarketing.com Mike Pedersen


    I’m totally with ya man!

    Transparency, realism and humility can go a long way online.

    I like the “connected and “non-connected” definition. So true!

    As a business consultant sometimes it’s hard, as to get new leads and contacts it seems that cold calling, and networking still are needed, although I don’t prefer either one of these methods. So I must be a “connected” one eh?


  • Jillian

    Hi Ryan!

    I am a current junior advertising student, studying at Michigan State University (go green!). Many of the classes I have taken have focused on psychology, consumer behavior, and creative techniques all relative to marketing/advertising. I definitely agree that categorizing generations into “baby booomers” or “generation x” or even the “tweens” generation (which have surprisingly HUGE buying power) is seemingly outdated as our world becomes more digitalized, and many segments of these generations are present online no matter their age.

    Additionally, what I have seen from studying current marketing techniques is that it is all about CONNECTION. Firms should tell a story that will engage you, transfix you, connect with you, maybe make you feel a little nostalgic, inspire you, and ENGAGE you (hopefully). Putting a human personality behind a brand is one way this can be accomplished, but I’ve been digging deeper to connect two seemingly unrelated concepts (in my case I post a weekly Insurance blog relative to Unions… which has been WAY out of my comfort zone… and attempt to tell a story).

    Think about even the advertisements shown during the Superbowl or Grammy’s. They are all stories. They are mini-movies, TV shows if you will, that aim to transfix the consumer and envelope them into minature segments. Long gone are traditional advertisements, commericals now are just like watching 6 TV shows during your commerical break (weird, right?)

    I believe that this connected generation is constantly looking for content to inspire them. To make them see something in a completely different light, challenge their previous beliefs, and stir things up a little bit. The blog posts that I write are from a student’s perspective, my own perspective — with a little bit of humor, personality, self-doubt, and like you touched on, vulnerabilty, telling your own story relative to your work is something that I believe will connect our readers.

    Loved this post — definitely inspired me, as do many of your posts do! I’ll keep you updated on my blog that is launching later this week!


    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley


      I couldn’t agree more with every single one of your comments… It’s Integration versus Interruption, that is the reason behind the story-type commercials. Stories naturally work into our psyche, it feels normal to hear stories because as human beings in non-marketing, real life conversation every day we tell stories…

      …so a commercial that actually is a story doesn’t feel as intrusive.

      Thanks so much for your comment and definitely let me know when your blog launches!!

      All the best,

      Ryan H

  • http://www.craigmcbreen.com/ Craig McBreen

    Hi Ryan,

    Love this and so true. The talk of age and the connected generation reminds me of when the Honda Element missed their target demo by a mile. They were focused on a younger demographic and didn’t even come close. The car was a hit with the “older” crowd 😉

    I digress. This is good piece and I especially love numbers 1 and 2. I was talking to someone today about what made Richard Pryor such a great comic. He was a genius at his craft of course, but he was almost honest to a fault. He showed vulnerability and that’s what made him special. Any blogger or small business can do the same thing, minus the F-bombs of course 😉

    Nice work!

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley


      It boggles my mind how most marketers look at a 55 year old and 35 differently in the way they deliver their message if both age groups are using the same tools. Now the actual message might slightly different as needs will be different but the crux of the message and delivery should be the same.

      I could be completely off… I love to hear from someone who thinks the idea is crap.

      All the best my friend,


  • Todd

    I love this shutting down of the generations by age here, Ryan. Connected vs unconnected. Another article, another line I’m stealing from you!

    • http://www.ryanhanley.com Ryan Hanley

      Steal away buddy… It’s all yours!

  • http://www.jasondmulholland.com/ Jason Mulholland


    The more I open up with those I do business with, the better business flows. That may be a connection on LinkedIn, but it’s more likely friending them on Facebook, and interacting with them there. And I’m not talking our company FB page, my personal FB profile. Secondly, the personal emails help tremendously. Texting too. You mentioned kids – the more I mention mine, the better. My wife would probably be scared at how much I do mention our kids, but it makes connecting with those you do business with so much more valuable, and on a deeper level. I’m slowly converting her to a member of the connected generation. :-)


  • http://fiorecommunications.com/blog/ Jeff Machado

    You’re dang right here, Ryan. I like a bunch of brands on Facebook and can tell you that they really have no idea how to interact with someone like me (Connected/Gen Y). And the crazy thing is that if these businesses did share more about themselves, I would probably spend a heck of a lot more money with them. Instead, by not sharing themselves or anything going on behind the scenes, they make me feel like an outsider.

    And I think that’s one thing about people in general – the desire to be part of something bigger.

    Also, this is another reason why it’s so important for people to have a personal presence online besides their company presence. This is something that I’m working on big time and I have faith that it will help me connect with the people I want and be of service.

    Love what you’re doing here! I hope we can connect more in the future man, we’re on the same page about so much.