Adults’ obsession with analyzing social media use is the exact thing that annoys my generation about social media. Often social media research misses the context of its use: an outlet for young adults to express themselves without being analyzed. There are broad reasons why each of us uses social media—personal image, authenticity, connection, recognition, communication—but analysis of digital media removes the enjoyment of using it. The only importance is that we all use it and can’t imagine a world without it.
Many companies believe that advertising on social media is the greatest thing since sliced bread because it’s a way to appeal to younger, techy audiences. However, most advertisers don’t know that, if we aren’t looking for ads on social media, my generation doesn’t even pay attention and just scroll past.
Instead of scanning an entire page, Millennials have a vision field like a central pinhole in which we get information from and cannot see outside of. We pay attention to information that seems real and applicable to our lives, and we ignore everything else. Current advertisements that pop up on Facebook or Twitter aren’t just annoying, they’re pointless—and they’re pointless because they’re annoying. My generation has become so attuned to finding authenticity in today’s world that we become irritated by scripted, fake ads. We are impatient with short-attention spans, so why would we look at fake ads on social media if we can scroll past them?
The future of advertising is going to be to make ads short, funny, visual, authentic to attract Millennials. By definition: pictures. Why is Pinterest so popular among my age-group? Pictures. What about Instagram? Pictures. Snapchat? Pictures.
I can already hear company executives arguing that plain pictures are not traditional advertising because there are no words or videos. Correct. Pictures don’t look like advertising, and for that reason, they are the most effective form of native advertising for this generation. They force us to notice ads without realizing it. For example, Nike’s Instagram page is solely pictures that showcase their products or their brand—and it has over five million followers. Pictures are persuasive because you cannot fake a picture—they’re authentic.
Authenticity also comes from credibility. Generations since the beginning of advertising find credibility in celebrities, and Millennials are no different. Show an image of a celebrity wearing clothes from Target and you have convinced thousands of Millennials to go shop at Target. That image gave Target street cred and made their brand authentic. Pictures capture the visual, authentic moments that Millennials are looking for—and will get through our generation’s pinhole-vision.
How can advertisers put this knowledge to use? First, make advertisements short, make advertisements visual, and make advertisements authentic. Appeal to the Millennial generation’s character with pictures. Most importantly, grab your audience’s attention so that they cannot scroll past the ad. In this case, impression is more important than message—make the first impression a good one. If advertisers can do that, we might pay attention.