Facebook, Twitter, Email, Fox News, And Millennials

The rhetoric at some industry conferences is starting to sound like Fox News. I recently attended a social media conference where a panelist tweeted, "Should I drop the f-bomb today?" before he got on stage and then proceeded to do so at the encouragement of several attendees.

Apparently, the goal is to secure the next speaking spot by shocking the audience and getting attendees tweeting. To get recognized you need to say something more profound than the last person. If saying something more profound is too hard, just saying something more ridiculous will get the job done, too.

This game of tweet-byte one-upmanship puts us at risk of losing touch with reality. Watch Fox News long enough and you'll be nodding your head when Glenn Beck unveils his theories on the philosophical likenesses of Obama, Chairman Mao and Hilter. Similarly, isolate yourself among those who pay their mortgage talking about the latest social media trends and you may find yourself agreeing that if it doesn't happen on Twitter, it probably doesn't matter.

I'm not trying to slam Fox News or social media enthusiasts. Both play legitimate roles. I'm just encouraging us to pay special attention to when our heads start nodding. When it happens, ask yourself, "Have I just crossed the line from passionate to delusional?"

This one-upmanship game has fueled a steady stream of declarations about which channels are "dead" followed by predictions about which new channels will gobble up the deceased. However, marketers are way out in front of their customers on this. Consumers don't think about channels dying, they think about which ones are best suited for which purposes. Social media allows them to do some stuff better than anything that came before it, but it doesn't do everything better.

For the past few months, I have been working on a project titled "Subscribers, Fans, and Followers," which looks at how people use email, Facebook, and Twitter to engage brands online. During a recent presentation, I was asked how much these audiences overlap. The simple answer is "a lot," but here is a detailed breakdown specific to Millennials ages 15 to 24:

1) Millennials Subscribe to fewer commercial emails, are fans of more companies on Facebook, and follow more brands on Twitter: These are all true statements. They are also relative statements that are very misleading. The average Millennial subscriber receives 7.4 permission-based email messages a day. The average Millennial fan has "liked" 5.9 companies on Facebook and the average Millennial Follower follows 2.9 companies on Twitter. So, while the numbers are clearly shifting, this does not suggest that new channels are replacing old ones.

2) 84% are email subscribers, 46% are Facebook fans, 6% are Twitter followers: Millennials have shifted a lot of their communication with friends to social media. Unfortunately, too many statistics focus on top-line usage numbers. For marketers, it is more important to look at how many consumers are engaging with brands through these channels. 87% of 15-24-year-old consumers that use email sign up for permission-based email, 57% of those that use Facebook are a fan of at least one company and 24% of Twitter users follow at least one brand.

3) Millennials don't isolate their interactions with brands to a single channel: 95% of Millennials who fan companies on Facebook also subscribe to commercial email. 95% who follow companies on Twitter subscribe to email also. 70% who follow companies on Twitter also fan companies on Facebook. Less than 2% of Millennials only engage companies through Facebook.

Millennials want to interact with companies in social media, but new channels don't introduce either/or propositions. They bring the promise of adding depth to relationships between consumers and brands.

Facebook allows consumers to display their affection for the brands they love, to engage in entertaining dialog with brands, and most importantly to do this while their friends are watching.

Twitter allows brands to show a side never before seen by consumers, and to provide quick updates to enthusiasts that want real-time information. These are great things for brands and consumers alike.

It is up to us, as marketers, to simply weave these channels together to create an enriching experience for our customers across channels. Don't let anyone fool you into thinking otherwise.

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4 comments about "Facebook, Twitter, Email, Fox News, And Millennials".
  1. Chad White from Salesforce Marketing Cloud , July 16, 2010 at 12:14 p.m.

    As a former journalist, I've been disheartened by the new yardstick by which stories and issues are measured: It's not whether an issue or commentary is important and insightful, but whether it generates clicks and conversation. (It also happens to be a lot cheaper to say outrageous nonsense than to do research and investigative journalism.) This system almost guarantees that undercovered issues remain so and encourages hyperbole and extremist views since those tend to generate discussions. Consequently, there's much more noise and a lot less substance out there. Turn your news filters up to maximum, boys and girls.

  2. Morgan Stewart from Trendline Interactive , July 16, 2010 at 2:14 p.m.

    Chad - great commentary. A good reminder of why I respect you so much. Thanks.

  3. Sandra Brooks , July 19, 2010 at 3:11 p.m.

    Morgan, while your comments focus on Millennials, the points you make e.g., the new channels don't introduce either/or propositions are representative of marketing best practices. It is all about the build... no channel operates in a vacuum. Instead it is about gaining visibility, increasing awareness, driving critical mass using all relevant channels.

  4. Tim Orr from Barnett Orr Marketing Group, Inc. , July 19, 2010 at 4:54 p.m.

    Help, I'm trapped in "Short Attention Span Theater"! It is a constant source of frustration to me that if I mention more than one item in an e-mail, especially if I am asking for a decision or input on more than one thing, I get *only* a response to one thing, usually to the first thing I mention. My theory is that e-mails, tweets and social media have embroiled us in a colossal game of "Hot Potato," in which every communication we send to someone induces only the need to respond and be done with it as quickly as possible. I for one am tired of having to either (1) break my messages up into multiple e-mails, each one containing only *one* topic, or (2) having to respond again and again and again until I get answers to all the questions I asked. It's not even a reluctance to scroll down.