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Social media: it’s #personal


What millennials want brands to know about social advertising

Previously published on MediaPost, 3/10/17

Social marketing is getting more and more important to brands. In fact, according to 2016 State of Social Business by Ed Terpening and Aubrey Littleton, ad budgets increased by 73 percent last year and are expected to grow even more in 2017. As brands look to make social a bigger part of their efforts, they need to ensure that they’re using it in the most effective way. So, what do they need to know? We asked the first generation to actually come of age with social. We interviewed millennials, and here’s what they want to tell brands about advertising on social media.


“You are in my personal space now.” – Jesse, 31

Social is getting more and more personal, and consumers can easily feel violated by pushy social advertising if is not targeted to them in the right space and the right time. Not only do they use social media for personal things, like “checking in on family and friends”, they have spent countless hours shaping their feeds to cater specifically to them. This level of personalization leads to a very strong feeling of ownership. And you wouldn’t just walk into someone’s house without asking, now would you?  No, you’d be polite, friendly and maybe even bring a gift. So, remember: you’re in their personal space. Act accordingly.


“Be relevant or be hidden.” – Ray, 29

Advertisers need to be mindful of each platform and tailor native content for each. As one of our millennials summed up, “You don’t want automate your content or advertising to be mass distributed, it doesn’t work anymore”. They want to see something made for Instagram on Instagram, and something made for Facebook on Facebook. This generation has grown up using these channels, and they can tell when a piece of content was obviously repurposed from another channel. Many social channels have robust targeting tools, and marketers need to get smart on how they use them. If it’s not right for them, millennials will either ignore it, or worse, block it. And they will even begin to resent brands that do this consistently. Many of our interviewees echoed this statement: “Don’t be pushy. If it’s not relevant to me you can’t force it.”


“Show me something I haven’t seen before.” – Adam, 28

The best way to cut through the clutter is still to show people something they’ve never seen before. And that rings especially true with millennials. Not only do they want to see interesting things, they want to share them: “Create something that I can share that will make me seem smart, funny or interesting. I love it when I’m the first one to show that new, funny video to my friends.” Sharing is great because it not only expands reach beyond your audience, it endears them to the brand. “If I share your content, I am more likely to consider it later when it is an advertisement.” Because of this, creating unique, sharable content should be every marketer’s focus.


“Know your brand voice, and incorporate it everywhere.” – Jess 25

Brands need to look cohesive. Knowing all the touchpoints on social and bringing your brand to life across them does not go unnoticed by Millennials. This expands into digital to. If your goal is to drive people from social to other properties, make sure those sites remain true to the look, feel, and messaging on social. “If an ad is unique or funny enough I’ll click just to see how the rest of the experience might be. If the ad is good, hopefully the rest of the brand is, too”. This means brands can no longer silo social teams off on their own. Social, marketing, and brands teams need to work together to give audiences the cohesion they want.


On top of all this, we also asked our millennials how they use and what they think of certain social channels. Here’s some quick examples of what they said:


“I use it to catch up with Family and Friends, I only check it once a day.”

“I use Facebook messenger for sharing more than I do on my Facebook page.”

“I use messenger to chat and share articles with friends and family”

“I’ll clock on relevant ads, but retargeting can be really annoying. If I already purchased the item, or if I was just doing a random search, and the ad keeps popping up in my feed it can be a big miss for an advertiser.”


“I use it to get inspired, and see pictures that I care about.”

“The platform is less emotional and easy to digest”

“It’s a bit more about mindless browsing and time-passing than Facebook.”

“The ways to connect on Instagram are a little more limited than Facebook. But that doesn’t mean I don’t like to reach out to others on the channel with tagging and comments.”


“Twitter’s really good for timely, in-the-moment news and discussion.”

“I used to be Twitter obsessed – I was on so many channels I had social media burn out and something had to give, and that something was Twitter”

“There is an expectation of immediate response on Twitter. It can create anxiety, feelings of guilt if you are ‘not getting back to people’, retweeting, sharing interesting things etc.”

“I am just a viewer on Twitter I am not active.”

“Humor or shock value works great and gets my attention – Trump tweets, I pay attention.”


“I use Snap chat for more 1:1 interactions with friends, some groups”.

“Marketers really need to cater their ads and message to an individual person, because group interactivity isn’t the same as on other channels.”

“Stories are big now, marketers should keep this in mind.”

“Filters are huge – one of the only things I save and share on Snapchat”


Millennials have a lot to say about social, but listening to it all is key if you want your brand to be successful. If you are trying to advertise on social, remember: you are in someone’s personal space. Be mindful of how they are utilizing each channel and how you can best fit into to that behavior and their personal space. Nobody like a door-knocking solicitor coming to their house and disrupting them during dinner. So, don’t be a solicitor: create native, interesting, thoughtful, targeted content. Utilize video and each channel’s content in an interesting, smart way to be a part of the discovery, research, and purchasing process. Millennials have lived in this world all their life and they move fast. If you want to stay relevant, you’ll have to keep up.