In 2014, my co-founder and I launched WayUp, a job platform exclusively for college students and recent graduates to find and apply for internships and jobs. In the beginning, we were faced with one big challenge: Getting every college student and recent grad in the United States to use WayUp.
Fast-forward 18 months, and we have half a million college students and recent graduates with profiles on WayUp (and many more reading our content). Getting here was hard work (and we still have a long way to go!), but here are three techniques we employed along the way to ensure brand authenticity—something especially important when targeting millennials. So, no matter your business, if you're going after the 18-to-34 set, you might want to incorporate these into your own strategy.
1. Humanize your social media.
According to a 2014 Elite Daily study on 1,300 millennials from online news platform Elite Daily's database of readers and contributors, 62 percent of millennials are brand loyal if a company is able to successfully engage with them on social. With over 91 percent of millennials using Facebook and other social media platforms, according to a 2015 Media Insight Project survey of 1,045 U.S. adults between the ages of 18 and 34, it's no wonder more and more brands are turning to social to acquire and retain this market.
However, like most things, running authentic social channels is easier said than done. One of the reasons that companies sometimes fail to engage through social is because they fall victim to content that is corporate and unrelatable.
In order to steer clear of stale social content, I challenge you to a marketing/branding exercise. Ask yourself, “If my company were a person, who would it be?" In college, would they have been the teacher's pet or the lovable class clown? In a bar, are they surrounded by a big group or having an intimate chat in the corner? Once you map out the characteristics of your company, apply that voice and personality to your social media channels. This can help ensure that others feel the authenticity behind your brand.
So, instead of using stock photos or promotional content, try posting personal stories from users. Social media is also the best place to write in a personable voice and engage with customers that leave comments, questions and suggestions.
2. Build a socially conscious brand.
Millennials also express interest in spending more on brands that publicly support causes they care about. But don't panic—that doesn't mean every company has to pivot to become an NGO overnight.
Millennials care about corporate social responsibility, but this can take on many different forms. This could be something as small as doing a team community service outing once a month.
Think back to the exercise regarding what type of person your company would be—as a small business, it's important to build out the social good part of your "personality" early on.
Think about what your employees do that helps the world or what causes your overall company mission can be tied back to. Baking this type of social responsibility into your brand's story can give millennials a better look into your values and mission—creating a more transparent vision of your company as a whole.
3. Follow your audience.
A 2015 Deloitte study of 50,000 adults worldwide found that users age 18 to 24 check their smartphones 74 times per day. If you're not taking advantage of that, you could be missing a huge opportunity to engage with your audience at their level. These days, digital doesn't mean reaching your audience on their desktops—it means embracing and utilizing all touchpoints.
In 2016, millennials expect brands to be connected, but with the same person-to-digital interactions. Companies are best advised to go beyond creating mobile experiences for consumers and must take on a true multi-channel approach. Don't be afraid to play with the boundaries of webinars, live customer chats and texts versus emails. After all, what feels more authentic—a marketing email blast or a personalized push notification or text tailored to you?