How to Talk to Millennials

With UK social media expert (and Millennial) Moya Vaughan.


We all know the secret to marketing to Gen Y is digital. But according to Moya Vaughan Evans, a social media expert (and a Millennial), it’s not as simple as sending a message with a little blue bird. Here are her top ideas for communicating with one of the most influential consumer groups today:

CUT THROUGH THE CHATTER. “We all know that tech has been firmly infiltrated into our lives,” says Moya Vaughan Evans from the UK consultancy Shake Social, which offers social media management to clients from fashion brands to charities and governments. “Due to constant ad exposure, we’re losing patience with paid advertising. Anyone who spends a lot of time online has a strong filter for anything that’s irrelevant or intrusive and promoted posts slide into these categories.”

Her first piece of advice – ditch the jargon. Or you won’t be LOLing all the way to the bank.

“Let’s take tone as a starting point,” says Moya. “Instead of worrying about generation gaps or being cool, use clear, concise language to get your key message across. Just let it reflect your brand’s personality – whether that’s witty, arty or just friendly. Being genuinely comfortable with the tone you’re writing in makes it so much easier to connect confidently with your audience.”

Also, it’s worth remembering that not all Millennials are teenagers (anymore). In fact, as of 2015, Gen-Yers at the top end of the age bracket will be 34 years old, so don’t make your language too teeny.


JOIN A CULT(URE). “If you know your audience has certain interests which you could engage with, though a niche market, then great,” says Moya. “Since communities on these sites are smaller, there’s less noise to cut through and potential to develop really meaningful connections with people based on common interests.”

The key here is to be an early adopter and look past the obvious.

“As of the last year, it appears the networks with the best customer penetration are Facebook, Instagram and… Snapchat,” says Moya. “The ephemeral nature of ‘snaps’ mean you’ve got the freedom to be silly and irreverent, and lends itself nicely to giving your fans exclusive insights into what goes on behind the scenes, without giving too much away [because the maximum viewing length is 10 seconds].”

This year and beyond, the social platform Vine is expected to become increasingly popular (in January, it celebrated hitting 1.5 million daily loops posted internationally). “Video is a rising star,” says Moya.


ASK & YOU’LL RECEIVE. Moya recommend creating a forum for fans to interact, rather than be bombarded with sales prattle.

“When it comes to posting images, popular strategies include asking fans to ‘caption this picture’,” recalls Moya. “Asking questions can be a great way to jump-start engagement but make sure the questions you ask can be answered quickly – in a few words or with a yes or no.” A study by the Centre for Generational Kinetics found 44 per cent of Millennials are more likely to trust experienced consumers (who happen to be strangers) and 51 per cent say consumer opinions found on a company’s website have a greater impact on purchase decisions than recommendations from family and friends. She says a popular way to do this is to ask fans for their preference – do you prefer product A or product B?

“[But] don’t set yourself up to fail by asking too much,” she advises. “Open-ended questions take more time to answer than the user generally has to give – think about if fans will really take time to write you an essay.”


SEE THE BIG PICTURE. We all know a picture can tell a thousand words, so when it comes to promoting your brand values, turn to a visual platform.

“Looking at Instagram, you can see emphasis falls on inspirational content,” says Moya. “Quotes are popular and can be a great way of setting out your brand’s values and ethos in a visually attractive way.”

She suggests offering a sneak peek behind the scenes (Snapchat, anyone?) – we’re a nosy bunch after all! This is where Snapchat can come in. “Post images of your environment, whether that’s your office or somewhere that you’re visiting, as this can be a great way of making your presence more tangible to followers.” Also, aim for a mixture of same-same and different – while consistency is good, it can get a little boring, so try and mix it up when you can.

Is there a magic formula for making your images appealing? According to a study by the University of Wisconsin, the cardinal rules are: no filters (as they distort the product), use high levels of yellow and blue, and don’t use question marks with exclamation marks as they kill credibility. (Really!?!?)


A FINAL FANFARE! “Fan-created content is incredibly powerful for your brand in terms of relatability and desirability,” says Moya. “If you can offer visual evidence that people love your products it has much more impact than asking your audience to take your word for it.” She cites the fashion line Free People as an example of a brand doing this well with their weekly social media event ’Question Wednesdays’ where they respond to fan queries. “It humanises their brand and keeps their fans interested by offering direct interaction as well as valuable contents.”

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