Just An Online Minute... Candy From Strangers: Your Millenial Social Media Marketing Plan

The Social Media Society Presents "Social Media Marketing & Millennials", The Princeton Club, New York
February 5, 2010

*please note - MediaPost and The Social Media Society are media partners. This does not effect how I cover the panel or whether I cover it at all, their relationship is separate from editorial*

At 8:30 a.m. Friday I swooped into The Princeton Club for The Social Media Society's contribution to Social Media Week New York: "Social Media Marketing & Millennials," an interactive focus group moderated by Doug Akin, ringleader and Chief Engagement Officer at Mr. Youth.  People were milling about, filling up coffee mugs, and scooping clumps of fresh blackberries out of piles of yogurt that nestled in white glob at the bottom of wine goblets.  Moderator Akin was the last to arrive, which no doubt had the coffee stinging Society founder Persia Tatar's belly a bit, but he had good reason for his late entry: he'd gone to the wrong Ivy League Club.  How did he straighten himself out? "I saw a bunch of people from Mr. Youth checking into The Princeton Club on Foursquare." 

Akin kicked it off right away, melting into the panel, making it feel like we really were flies on the wall observing a secret conversation.  First, each panelist admitted up front that it is their life right now to be immersed in media and advertising, so they're more keen on this topic  --  they watch commercials to dissect them and they have had internships where they have used Twitter as part of their jobs.   Oh, and the way to engage them? Free food.  It's nice to see that college hasn't changed. 

Couple things:

Of the seven young adults on the panel, four use Foursquare.

Of the entire panel, no one mentioned Wordpress as social media, but named Tumblr.  However two panelist use Wordpress for their "professional" blogs: Jessica Roy's school's online paper (NYU Local) and Jeremiah Malina's holdmycoat.com

All groaned when mentioning use of MySpace, with Malina deadpanning, "That's kind of in the past.  It's dead except for musicians."

Who do they follow (not just by Twitter definition)?

Christina Plana, a marketing and management major at the Stern School of business, who seemed unimpressed with much of the social media environment, was  impressed by Virgin America's Operation Chihuahua, which shipped abandoned Chihuahuas from L.A. all over the country to new homes.  The visual of a plane filled with those little shivery dogs is too much. 

Her example called out a point that Cuauhtemoc "C-Moc" Sandoval supported, and actually everyone on the panel agreed with: that theirs is a cause-conscious  generation.  Whether it's because now they're exposed to cause marketing more, or because now it's so easy to support a cause, it doesn't matter.  They care about and respond to cause-focused campaigns.  Pepsi will be pleased to know that they were all impressed with Pepsi Refresh, because it gave them the chance to help others -- but also because they expect to see tangible results.

When given the choice of participating in a campaign where a dollar goes to charity or directly into your pocket, Plana spoke honestly, "I want the dollar back in my pocket," because she doesn't trust that the dollar from the coupon is necessarily going where it says it is.  C-Moc suggested that if the dollar was ready for instant exchange on the Web vs. complicated redemption steps, that would be acceptable as well.

The students are on Facebook for friends and for brands -- but made it very clear they only become fans if there are incentives like free food, quality entertainment or sweepstakes. The exception was Malina, who said he hasn't denied a fan page suggestion yet.  As for a paid Facebook model? The answer was a resounding  "maybe."

While they said that a deal or freebie wasn't why they fanned pages, the students' descriptions of incentive and action described the hook of the deal.

Three of the seven students admitted to not having televisions.  Hulu, Ustream, and YouTube were mentioned in heavy rotation.

Who do you trust when making a purchasing decision?

The panel trusts Facebook friends, Twitter people, and strangers.  Strangers take the form of bloggers where, Plana expressed, "you don't feel bad disagreeing with them."  It's an opinion that isn't influenced by knowing you.  The panel mumbled agreement and my "disclosure" flag went up.  Millennials trust bloggers - beauty, tech, politics,  whatever, they trust bloggers to give it to them straight, from an honest experience.  Before I could say anything they were one step ahead of me, each adding "well, they should disclose relationships" caveats.

What would make your life better?

Roy: "Anything that makes doing homework easier.  It would be great if Spark notes would have an iPhone app."

Marc Geffen, senior marketing major at New York University's Leonard N. Stern School of business is looking for business and brand applications of Foursquare, noting, "It would be cool if you went into a store and checked in, and in real time you got a coupon." Ha! Remember Bluetooth?

Malina: "I think augmented reality is going to be the next big thing."

Lee Levy, media, culture, and communication major at NYU: "I would be cautious saying that Foursquare is going to be the next big thing, because we're already being pushed to the edge of overexposing ourselves."

What do you think of online gaming mimicking the offline world, where it would engage you online and translate into offline.

C-moc on Farmville: "People aren't starting their own farms."

Anthony Liang, a senior at University of New Hampshire , who found out about the panel on Twitter and contacted Akin to get on the panel, said, "It depends on the complexity of the game."

Millennials are just like us, they just have smaller pores.  They're busy, they're strapped for cash, their time isn't their own.  They want the same things we do -- they want their information quickly, from trusted sources.  They want their favorite brands to be honest and generous - and they want their brands to know that, as Marc Geffen, NYU marketing major said, "loyalty can be fragile; it's survival of the fittest." They want to create a positive history through contributions to causes and they want  social media experiences themselves to be positive, unlike Jessica Roy's reaction to the Pepsi iPhone app that was, "disgustingly sexist... a great example of sharing something in social media first without being sure you want to share it in the first place."

Let's shut 'er down the iPad, why don't we?

Malina doesn't feel the iPad is for him because he's on the go and looking stuff up on his iPhone or "searching the Internet way more efficiently."

Plana disagreed, "It's premature to say whether or not iPad is for or not for you.  I can say confidently that Kindle and the B&N Nook are on their way off the planet with the advent of the iPad."

Pictures of the morning are up on Flickr!

*edited at 12:09p.m. EST on 2/08/2010 for disclosure*

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