In recent years, I’ve noticed a large shift in how high school and college-aged millennials utilize social media.
Using personal profiles to simply share unfiltered photos and connect with friends and family is a thing of the past. Millennials now highly value their personal brand and intuitively understand how to create and share viral content that strengthens their online persona(s).
I decided to go straight to the source to find out what takeaways small businesses can glean from how millesimals use social media to build their personal brand and interact with commercial brands.
The tips below arouse out of an interview with Rachel, a 20-year old fashion merchandising major at Colorado State University with a healthy online following. Disclaimer: Rachel also happens to be my sister.
Visualization is Everything
Understanding that every shared photo reflects their personal brand, many millennials engage in intense staging to create seemingly effortless photos. And to solidify their personal brand through images, millennials rely on a few favorite filters to give all their photos a uniform look and feel.
Some are staging photos so well that, in a huge role reversal, brands are approaching millennials with Instagram posts featuring their products to share their images as advertising.
Photos are Proof
“In today’s society, we want to see instead of read and expect brands to show instead of tell,” Rachel said. “Rather than telling us about a product’s special feature, we want to see it with our own eyes.”
These days it takes little more than a high quality cell phone camera and free editing apps to churn out advertising worthy photos. So grab your smart phone and start snapping, just make sure to avoid these mistakes.
Emojis are for Marketing Too
The rising popularity of emojis is a bandwagon that many brands are just starting to jump on.
“Emojis tie back to how visualization is key because they allow for less words,” Rachel said. “I can share a photo and then pair it with an emoji that lets people know how I actually feel about the photo, rather than having to spell it out in black and white.”
Emojis provide a quick way for businesses to add humor or a tongue-in-cheek feel to their social media marketing.
“I’m seeing more and more brands use emojis,” Rachel said. “People often gravitate toward the same five to six emojis, which also makes it an extension of brand - either personal or business.”
Follow the Herd
Social media operates by the rules of social currency. The more you follow and interact with others, the more engagement you can expect in return.
“Right before posting a photo, I often like several of the photos in my feed so my post will be more likely to get noticed,” Rachel said.
High engagement also comes from leveraging trending content.
“You want to be perceived as ‘on top of your game’ so it’s important to mention trending topics or events and share photos that prove you were a part of them,” Rachel said.
RedBull does just that by making sure they stay in the center of the action thanks to an innovative partnership with GoPro.
Find your A Teams
“Millennials understand that in order to build a strong personal brand, we need to sell our lifestyles by making them as appealing as possible,” Rachel said.
“To do this effectively, we have to target different groups of people because the same thing will not appeal to everyone - just like businesses cater to different preferences or needs.”
Finding the groups of people who will be most likely to be engaged with your content also means aligning yourself with the right businesses, events, and brands.
“Tagging is really important,” Rachel said. “A great way to build your personal brand is to tag the products you buy.”
The fact that millennials enjoy tagging businesses and products they enjoy underscores the importance of small businesses having strong social media presences.
Meet your New Marketing Engine: Snapchat
Snapchat’s booming popularity leaves some scratching their head, but it makes sense for highly visual and event driven businesses.
Rachel follow boutiques on Snapchat who are using the platform as a virtual browsing tool.
“I like how I can see what new products stores have and even see how they fit on other people or mannequins - all just from my phone,” Rachel said. “I feel like I am actually window-shopping.”
Live coverage of events on Snapchat - like the Oscars or sporting events - give users a behind-the-scenes feel.
“I use Snapchat because it allows you to feel like you are really there, whatever the event is,” Rachel said. “You can hear the stars talking at their tables at the Golden Globes or watch a basketball game from a court-side seat view.”
Snapchat provides small business a free virtual store or an easy way to provide live coverage of a grand opening or product launch.
We'd love to hear from you! Which of these cues are you going to start incorporating into your digital marketing?