As the latest generation to step into the spotlight, Millennials have taken their share of hits from older generations in the past few years. If you were born in the 80s, 90s or early 00s, it’s likely you’ve heard comments like these more than once (or, if you’re a bit older, perhaps you’ve made them):
- Millennials are very “me first.” We are, after all, living in the era of the endless selfie.
- Millennials are addicted to social networks. From Twitter to Facebook to Instagram and back, they’re always saying or doing something social.
- Millennials don’t care much about digital privacy. They’re willing to put anything and everything out there—and they don’t care who sees it.
New networks and apps are popping up every day to host and distribute (often personal) information – which means 20-somethings and teens are just getting started, right?
Hold on. I’m not ready to buy into any such possible stereotypes just yet—and I don’t think it benefits marketers to make those kinds of general assumptions, either.
The reality is that Millennials have a more relaxed relationship with the internet, social networks, data and digital privacy than Generation Xers and Baby Boomers might imagine. Yes, Millennials have grown up online, to varying extents, and this gives them some inherent savvy and ease in terms of how they conduct themselves on the web.
But – and here’s the part that’s often overlooked – they’ve also seen the results of bad decisions and indiscretions between users—incidents that have actually made many Millennials leery of sharing their personal information in a public way. In addition, they’ve witnessed apps like Snapchat abusing the trust of users, and they know other popular social platforms have made questionable data decisions, too.
Plus, if power user Millennials really don’t care about digital privacy, then why is Mark Cuban romancing them with a new app called Cyber Dust, where texts will evaporate into the ether 30 seconds after you send them? Even Facebook founder, Mark Zuckerberg, who’s famous for shrugging off privacy concerns, is making the effort to ensure his community knows exactly who can see what they post.
Perhaps most surprising of all, the highest court in Europe is telling Google that perhaps the internet shouldn't be forever, after all.
A few thoughts on how marketers should approach data use and digital privacy with Millennials:
- Be prepared to pony up. Millennials are more comfortable sharing their info than Boomers are, and even those who hesitate are far more likely than Boomers to be swayed by incentives.
- Be transparent to earn their respect. If you must gather information, tell them why, and what you’re going to do with it—and draw clear lines about what you will and won’t store or share. Don’t assume they don’t care where their data goes.
- Tread lightly with targeting. 67% of Millennials are fine with ad targeting if the offers are relevant. But 64% are also pretty uneasy about companies knowing what they’re up to online, and using that information to sell to them.
Remember: Millennials are facing a technological landscape that’s evolving faster than ever before. It can get a bit overwhelming, to be sure.
So make it your job as a marketer to use the tools at your disposal to engage Millennials according to their individual preferences. Your goal is to provide them with a great customer experience —and to do that, you need to learn about what matters most to them, respect their preferences and meet their needs in a relevant way.
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