Most brands aren't taking advantage of the opportunities presented them to engage Gen Y consumers.
Gen Y is on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and the majority of social networks, and they expect to have a conversation with your brand on these channels.
Most of the time, brands see this interaction in a negative sense because consumers bring complaints to a Facebook wall or Twitter feed. Gen Y consumers are incited to engage with brands based on a negative experience, not a positive one so brands become reactive and can't engage in a positive fashion.
According to a recent MTV Networks study, 70% of Gen Y consumers said they'd figure out how to make things fair if they feel a company is being unfair with them. The network found that the group as a whole demands fairness, transparency and clear, consistent rules from brands. This often means brands get bombarded with negative Facebook posts or tweets when it increases shipping charges or makes a decision a majority of its consumers doesn't like.
The solution is simple: Brands need to be more proactive in engaging Gen Y consumers. It doesn't have to be formal research done with an agency or even scientifically formulated -- just engage like a regular person. It's the first step in trying to bring Gen Y consumers into your circle.
If you're thinking of changing shipping charges on your website or altering your return policy, talk to consumers first. Giving Gen Y costumers a chance to provide feedback on a possible change and then seeing their suggestions come to life -- or at least the chance for their feedback to be seriously considered -- is the best way to start creating grassroots ambassadors in this consumer group.
This type of consumer research doesn't have to just be for research; it can be used for marketing. Engaging Gen Y consumers in a positive fashion should be central to any brand's social media strategy. It could be as simple as a Facebook question on an airline's brand page, asking consumers what type of entertainment they'd like to see on the plane.
Rather than waiting for a disgruntled passenger who was angry about missing expected reruns of “30 Rock,” the airline can give consumers a chance to help shape that programming. If a problem does come up, you have a group of consumers who can back you up because they participated in the conversation your brand started on in-flight entertainment.
Use the tools in front of you to start a positive conversation with consumers and take advantage of Gen Y's willingness to talk.