Millennials 101

Who They Are & How They're Changing Communications

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Posted: Sep 9, 2014

When thinking about ways to connect and foster meaningful relationships with the Millennial generation, it’s important to consider their values and characteristics. Millennials live their lives publicly, yet greatly value privacy and close relationships. Digging into the standout traits and values of Millennials can help inform how we build strategies to authentically engage this generation.

Millennial demographics

Born between 1980 and 2000, Millennials make up the largest and most diverse generation ever.

Millennials are more liberal and self-expressive than other generations, and believe that their use of technology makes them unique. They’re also more educated than any other generation and more likely to live in urban environments.

Millennial values

Social good. Millennials report that they’re more willing to take a lower paying job if it means they’re more personally fulfilled by their work. They want to know that they’re making a difference and contributing to their workplace. Millennials desire validation and vocal support.

Education. More Millennials have graduated from college and high school than any other generation. Through their education, they’ve adopted a mindset that is widely open-minded and empathetic.  

Teamwork. The Millennial generation values the connection they feel with others. They’re comfortable organizing, learning, and supporting one another in groups. They rely on recommendations to inform their purchasing decisions. They cheer each other on and ask for help when they need it. They like to problem-solve together.

Independence. Although they’re constantly connected to one another, Millennials strongly value and believe in their own ability to make decisions. They distrust traditional marketing, choosing instead to rely on friends and family for advice. Though they skew more liberal in their views, particularly about social issues, 50% of Millennials today do not affiliate with a political party. About 30% of Millennials say they are not affiliated with any religion.  

Millennial characteristics

We tend to generalize when we think about generations, so it’s important to think about who Millennials are as individuals. These characteristics can help us understand how this audience interacts with the world around them. Millennials are:

  • Confident. Though they face a difficult employment market, Millennials genuinely believe they can change the world for the better.
  • Upbeat. Overall, Millennials tend to report that they’re happy and optimistic about the future.
  • Generous. Millennials are more likely to have volunteered recently than any other generation.
  • Seekers. Millennials are more likely to report that they don’t expect to stay employed by their current employer over the length of their career.
  • Skeptical. Only 28% of Millennials think that most people can be trusted.

Millennials as digital natives

Millennials are the first generation to have grown up in the age of the computer. They’ve always been connected to the Internet, and they’ve learned to equate technology with social connection. Millennials have the most positive view of technology out of any generation and most believe that it can be used to make our lives easier and keep us closer to friends and family.

More than 90% of Millennials are registered on Facebook, and nearly half of those visit the platform daily. They’re comfortable adopting emerging social channels and trends, as evidenced in high rates of growth on channels like Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. Millennials are the digital pioneers. They’re also more likely to contribute and share through online platforms versus other generations and more likely to have taken time to update their privacy settings. 

Nearly all Millennials use a mobile device. They’re the most avid texters and check their devices roughly 43 times per day. They use their mobile devices to extend experiences by sharing with others or interacting with digital content while watching TV. Millennials move from screen to screen with ease.

Engaging Millennials

With the more data available on Millennials and their motivations available than ever before, we can finally begin to wrap our heads around how to reach this vitally important demographic.  Below are some considerations to make sure your communications strategy is positioned to effectively engage this generation.

  • Give them actions: Millennials are an active bunch. Don’t expect them to simply write you a check and move on. When they commit to an organization, they commit and want to act. Give Millennials opportunities to engage with your organization by soliciting their opinion on programs or priorities, encouraging them to share messages, or providing volunteer opportunities to deepen their connection to your cause.
  • Know where they are and show up: You can’t just rely on the familiar communications channels to reach Millennials. Understand who your Millennial audience is and where they’re spending their time online. Based on those findings, make sure you contribute there regularly. Millennials won’t necessarily seek you out, so you have to find them and show your value in order to earn their trust.
  • Think multi-platform: Consistency across platforms is crucial. These digital natives are comfortable flying from one channel or screen to the next. Make sure your digital presence is optimized for mobile, tablets, and desktop, and maintain your visual identity across platforms and channels. Keep your content fresh and current to ensure you’re staying relevant to Millennials.    
  • Show your impact: In the same way Millennials like to take action, they want to understand how their action has helped your organization and your cause. Keep your audiences informed about the positive impact you’re having in the world. Quantification of your impact will certainly help people understand the scale, but don’t be afraid to pair those stats with powerful stories about the people who have been affected as a result of your work.

Millennials are a generation who genuinely believe they have the power to change the world. In order to make that happen, they’ll surely need your help. Adapt to their savvy ways and you’ll have Millennials on your side in no time.

Resources on Millennials: Pew Research Center, Nielsen, Forbes, Brookings Institute.

Twitter: @kimervin
Kim Ervin is Pyramid’s Senior Social Media Strategist. She’s developed social media strategies that engage Millennials through her current and past work with HTC, Get Schooled, the Bumbershoot Music and Arts Festival, The Seattle Foundation, United Way of the Columbia-Willamette, and KEXP. When not helping organizations reach their target audiences at Pyramid, you can find Kim reading feeds and researching ways to change the world on multiple screens.