The millennial generation grew up with headphones on their ears and smartphones in their hands, and are often found with content from both devices jockeying for their attention at the same time. These digital natives became the largest living generation in 2015, according to the Pew Research Center, overtaking their parental Baby Boomers and are now the largest consumer segment in the country. The group with the shortest attention span has the most purchasing power and brands are seeking to quickly master the best way to earn their valuable dollars.
When consuming sports, for example, millennials are more inclined to watch a video from their favorite YouTuber versus a professional athlete. When 13-17 year olds chose their favorite athlete to watch, the “My Favorite YouTuber” category ranked only behind LeBron James and Tom Brady as individuals who they like to follow.
With social influencers establishing passionate audiences, it is essential for brands to identify influencers to communicate their messages to millennials. The most effective marketing to millennials takes place when social influencers and brands they trust to be authentic are communicating to them. A study from Defy Media found that 62% of millennials ages 13-24 years old would try a product suggested by a YouTuber, versus 42% who would try a product based on a movie. In another study of millennial perception of celebrities, Variety asked respondents to assess 20 well-known personalities, such as Smosh, Katy Perry, Paul Walker and PewDiePie, “in terms of approachability, authenticity and other criteria.” Their findings were that the top five — and six of the top 10 — were YouTube stars.
Social influencers are grabbing millennial’s attention, so everyone’s getting in on their influence. Philanthropic organizations are utilizing social influencers to help engage millennials in their causes. Boxed Water, for example, partnered with influencers like Jaime King, Megan DeAngelis and Aidan Alexander to spread the word about their campaign on Instagram with the National Forest Foundation called The Retree Project. For every photo posted with the hashtag #Retree, Boxed Water planted two trees. A month after it was launched, there were more than 3,000 Instagram photos with #Retree and in total, they planted 73,630 trees. These influencers may not be household names, but they’re moving millennials to action.
Another successful example of a brand harnessing the power of social influencers is Madewell. To celebrate the anniversary of their classic tote bag, Madewell engaged five lifestyle influencers, including Stephanie Sterjovski and Bethany Marie, to promote the anniversary across multiple social platforms using the hashtag #TOTEWELL. They also ran a competition for users to submit their own #TOTEWELL moments that resulted in hundreds of submissions from tote bag consumers.
Sometimes the most successful campaigns bridge the gap between mainstream celebrities and social influencers, like when trick shot stars Dude Perfect partnered with actor Paul Rudd in a Dizzy Bat Challenge to promote the upcoming “Ant-Man” movie last summer. This single video garnered more than 12 million views on YouTube.
The best ways to communicate with millennials are evolving and brands need to continually innovate in order to reach them in an effective way. Social influencers are bridging the gap between traditional advertising and a recommendation from a close friend. Harnessing the power of social influencers is an excellent way to speak to millennials in an authentic way, especially if a brand or advertiser wants to reach a targeted, passionate fan base that will be more likely to engage with their product than through a mass campaign.