Ypulse: What Millennials Want

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Brands are getting it wrong when they bombard fans with the same information in the same ways on each medium.

Emily Anatole, Ypulse

Emily AnatoleDo you work with Millenials? Do you make products for the iGeneration? Or are you just raising a few Digital Natives of your own and want to know what makes them tick? Regardless, you need to know about Ypulse – a site devoted to daily news and insight into the Millennial generation for media and marketing professionals. It's an indispensable resource to understand technology from a youth and pop culture perspective.

Few people  know more about this subject than Emily Anatole, one of the thoughtful editors of Ypulse (and a recent inductee into the Say 100 technology channel). We caught up with her for some insight on what marketers should know about Millenials, what they can't live without and who their role models are (you'll be surprised).

What's the most important thing marketers should know about Millenials? Millennials can and will be the best brand ambassadors if you let them, and if you reach them in the right ways. Invite them in early on in the creation of your product, so that they get the inside scoop on what you're doing and they'll have a stronger connection to your brand/product. If they think what you're doing is cool and they know that their opinion matters to you, they'll have more respect for your brand and will want to share what you're doing with their network.

Some of the best examples of this strategy are Justin Bieber and "The Hunger Games." Bieber updated his fans throughout his rise to fame, much before he even became a star. He told them everything he was doing, where they could meet him, and let them know how important they were to him. His fans then felt like they were on the journey with him and wanted to support him even more, becoming loyal Beliebers. Today, they still feel responsible for his success, which is largely due to the fan base he built on social media and the personal connections he created.

Lionsgate employed a similar strategy in releasing "The Hunger Games" movie. The studio updated fans in interactive ways and created enormous hype until the movie's premiere. To release promo posters, Lionsgate cut the images up into 100 pieces and spread them across 100 websites. Fans then had to search on social media to piece together the parts and construct the poster. It became an event across the Internet to stay up to speed with "The Hunger Games' " release of information. Lionsgate also made microsites including TheCapitol.pn and CapitolCouture to bring fans into the world of Panem. Lionsgate even arranged for hundreds of websites to have ticket giveaways and it hosted a contest to come to the movie set. All of these strategies contributed to the excitement for the movie and made fans feel invested in the brand even before its release. They then spread buzz about the movie via word of mouth marketing and it became inescapable.

Moreover, the power of crowdsourcing is exponential and it's something we'll see even more in marketing across all industries. Let consumers create something that matters and share their ideas so that they'll want to be advocates of your brand. Millennials now expect advertising to be entertaining - they don't want to simply be marketed to. Rather, they want ads to have a payoff and be worth their time. By providing a platform for them to be creative and share their thoughts, you'll gain their insights and approval.

What's the biggest mistake most marketers make when trying to reach Millenials? Simply having a presence on social media isn't enough. Some brands may think that having accounts on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram means that they'll attract Millennials since this generation spends so much of their time on social media. But it's not just what brands do that matters, it's how they do it. They need to having a marketing strategy that's unique to each platform rather than just posting the same information on each site. Facebook and Twitter for example are better for posting updates, deals, and discounts, whereas Instagram and Pinterest are intended for images. Brands are getting it wrong when they bombard fans with the same information in the same ways on each medium.

With that said, Millennials want a reason for interacting with your brand. They expect to be rewarded for "liking " a Facebook page or following a brand on Twitter, and these rewards often come in the form of savings or exclusive entertainment. Gen Y is much more likely to engage with your brand if they get discounts, if your brand asks for their opinion, and if they are shown information early on via these platforms. Yet at the same time, they don't want brands clogging up their feeds, so there has to be the right balance. Overall, give them valuable information so that they'll want to keep coming back and don't just post to post.

What are the 5 things Millenials typically say they can't live without? Any trends you see there? We're always asking them this and just ran a survey on this topic. The main thing they can't live without is technology. They've never known a time without it and they recognize how dependent they are on it. They use it for nearly every aspect of their lives and go as far as to say they'd be lost without it. For many, even losing their phone for a day makes them feel helpless. And this need to be in constant communication is why cell phones are the first item they can't live without. Being able to text or connect with their friends at all times is a requirement for them and it serves not only as a social connection, but a form of security.

Internet is the next thing they can't live without since information has always been at their fingertips and they've been able to teach themselves anything or have access to nearly anything in seconds. They receive all of their information online (largely on social media), but without it, they'd feel isolated and uninformed. Moreover, Millennials embrace collaboration and sharing, and the Internet provides a collective pool of knowledge that is influencing how they interact with others. It's informed culture and their attitudes, so their lives would be drastically different without it.

Next is music. The majority of Millennials say it's the medium they couldn't live without, far more than TV. It helps them find meaning in their lives and form a connection to others. Also, in today's digital age, music has become even more social and they seek to share songs and discover new ones from others.

And besides these tech related items, they'd then say they couldn't live without family and friends. Millennials have strong values and are less interested in material possessions (cars, houses) than previous generations. Instead, they favor experiences and bonding with the people they care about. Moreover, they're forming families of their own later, so they rely on their family and friends as their support system.

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What's do marketers need to know about the love/hate relationship these digital natives have with technology? Gen Y loves technology for making their lives easier, providing them with entertainment, and connecting them with others, but they also feel that it can sometimes consume their lives and it affects their in-person interactions.

Again, the overload of information is why they don't want to be infiltrated with advertisements when they're on social media, watching content online, or browsing a Web page. Instead, ads need to be interactive, engaging, creative, and inspiring so that they feel like there's a reason for them to consume it and want to share the message. Ads that engage them and provide a social component to let them engage with their friends are often effective since they want to socialize with their friends anyway.

What are some of the biggest new culture and trend influences on this group that non-digital natives may not know about yet? Millennials are shaking up the television industry by cutting the cord on cable and leading the way in watching content in untraditional ways. The "second screen " has been the best way to understand their viewing habits in recent years as Millennials multitask while watching TV – either on a set or streamed online, but often using their phones, tablets, and/or other devices to communicate and socialize simultaneously. However, we're now seeing a shift again where the "second screen" (ie. their phone, tablet, computer) is now the first screen. In other words, they're using these untraditional devices to watch most of their content and they're also interacting simultaneously on the same device. We'll see more and more devices serve multiple purposes simultaneously as exemplified by Cartoon Network's new app that lets users play games and view content at the same time on the same device.

We're also seeing a major momentum where professional YouTube channels have the potential to be just as big, if not bigger, than TV networks. Millennials and the generation that follows them spend much more time online than they do watching TV, so they prefer this medium anyways. YouTube channels such as AwesomenessTV, Smosh and Shut Up! Cartoons are taking the web by storm with their original, high-quality content that's well-suited for a generation with a short-attention span. Kids, tweens, and teens can watch these programs anytime and anywhere, and to them, social media stars are just as big as celebrities on traditional mediums. Online content also allows for more viewer engagement and feedback, so we see this trend catching on already and imagine it will play an even bigger role over time. At the opposite end of the spectrum, traditional networks are focusing more on their digital offerings by providing fans with unique content (such as spin-off web series, exclusive content, and more) during the off-season.

How is the current economic crisis shaping the outlook of these digital natives? Millennials know it's a tough time and there's a high unemployment rate, so they're doing the best they can to make and save money while they figure things out. Despite these difficulties, they're remaining optimistic. One of the biggest things we're seeing is the rise of young people who are moving back home with their parents. They count on their parents for emotional and often financial support, and their parents are among their close friends, especially as they're forming their own families later in life. They feel comfortable at home, often in the bedroom in which they grew up, which has produced a culture of ‘90s nostalgia.

But they're not just sitting around waiting for their dream jobs to come to them or for the economy to improve. Millennials feel a sense of responsibility to make something happen and have an entrepreneurial spirit, so they're doing whatever they can to create their own success. That may mean getting a part-time job in retail or in a restaurant to pay the bills, but they're simultaneously doing other things like starting blogs, inventing apps, or even interning to get more experience. Moreover, they value happiness over wealth, so they're okay taking their time to figure things out if it'll ultimately benefit them in the long run.

They're also becoming more resourceful and careful with their money by embracing DIY projects and adopting an attitude that they can make things rather than buy them. This is partially due to sites like Pinterest, as well as their collaborative nature to get ideas and try new things based on suggestions from others.

Who are some of the thought leaders or influencers for Millenials? Mark Zuckerberg, and Steve Jobs are among the biggest influencers for Millennials. Gen Y looks up to these individuals as role models for being innovators and making a mark on the world. They've created products that have shaped society and Gen Y aspires to be creative thinkers just like them.

Justin Bieber is also among one of their influencers for changing the way in which artists and fans interact and leading the movement of YouTube stars. They also look up to Lady Gaga who's not afraid to be an individual – an idea that they embrace, and they admire how much she advocates causes including bullying, gay rights, and AIDS.

Barack Obama is another influencer for this generation since he's helped them maintain their optimistic attitude through messages of hope and change, meanwhile understanding their generation and embracing the mediums they're into. Lastly, Taylor Swift is another of their top influencers since she's vulnerable and writes all of her own songs about her experiences, which is much like reading a page of her diary. Young people feel like they can relate to everything she sings and they appreciate her openness.

When you talk to and research what Millenials are doing, what makes you optimistic about their future? Their optimistic attitude makes us most determined about their future; in a survey we ran earlier this year on education and employment, 78% of Millennials said they think it's likely they'll get a job they love. Their ability to believe in their success despite today's economy is what keeps them motivated. They're passionate above all else and they want a job that matters. They seek to do good and create meaningful contributions since they know that they're the future leaders and they have big shoes to fill.

Overall, their passion is what makes us most confident in this generation. They're most interested in being entrepreneurs or employees at small businesses so they can be extremely hands on and instrumental in a company's success. To achieve this, they're often involved in side projects to pursue their passions and they're always thinking about how they can make their goals happen and also enrich others' lives.

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Finally, what's your reaction to this story from Romenesko about how Millenials regard news (garbage and lies)? I don't think it's that they hate news and see no value to it, but rather, they are obtaining and sharing their news in ways that older generations do not necessarily understand or regard as valuable. Moreover, they're often overloaded with information to the point that it can be overwhelming. They get a lot of their news from their peers by hearing what their friends say, seeing statuses and tweets, as well as by watching shows that combine entertainment and news commentary. Whereas their parents may read newspapers, they're more likely to watch "The Colbert Report " to find out what's happening. They've grown up in an age where in essence, anyone with Internet access can be a journalist for breaking news, sharing it with others, tweeting pictures, etc. They're the first to react online when something happens, so they're certainly plugged in, just not in traditional ways. But to them, news can get repetitive because they see a lot of the same content throughout their feeds and with so many sources, news if often reproduced and recycled, rather than original.

Nevertheless, they're changing the news industry. To them, a Twitter stream is a legitimate way to learn about news. They rely on trending topics or sources like msnNow, which track the news trends from a variety of real-time sources, and then editors produce bite-sized summaries. They're also growing up at a time where news is crowd sourced; the Huffington Post launched HuffPost Live, a new streaming video network where community members from around the world can join in via their webcam, and Yahoo announced #Hashout, the first talk show conducted over social media. This is still news, but in new ways that rely on multimedia.

Time will continue to tell how they regard news and traditional mediums, but they're still staying informed and obtaining news, just in more social ways. In regards to them feeling that the news doesn't accurately represent their generation, Millennials are quite different from other generations, and because of it, they're often misunderstood.

Follow Emily and YPulse on Twitter @ypulse.

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