What makes Millennials click?

If you want to reach the Millennial generation — loosely defined as people born between 1980 and 2000 — it probably won’t come as a surprise that you should use the Internet: some 93 percent of Millennials spend regular and extended periods of time online, according to recent research from Pew. And since Millennials also have the highest labor-force participation by age bracket in the US, it’s a lucrative segment of the population for brands to target.

According to new research from MTV, however, companies run the risk of alienating the very audience they mean to attract if they go about social media marketing in the wrong way. “Extraordinarily nuanced codes and informal rules of behavior are emerging in social media,” MTV’s Nick Shore wrote in a report about his study’s findings published in AdAge this week.

Here are a few takeaways from the research for brands looking to reach Millennials on the web:

  • Be quotable: Teens and young adults are hyper-aware of every thing they say online. Often, they’re much more comfortable conveying their feelings by quoting or linking to someone else — as shown by the abundance of song lyrics and quotes on any given teenager’s Facebook wall. “What we observed many of the millennials doing… was being controversial by proxy,” MTV reported. In fact, fully 54 percent of the survey respondents said they posted video clips or articles they agreed with in lieu of posting their own opinion as a status update. If a brand can make somewhat racy yet quotable content, Millennials may do their viral marketing for them.
  • Ask and answer: Millennials don’t like to wait — and they can’t stand to be ignored. More than 60 percent of MTV’s survey respondents said they demand immediate feedback for text messages, and 70 percent for IM and Facebook chat. That may be because 58 percent of them said they get a boost in confidence when they get feedback online. If brands want to really engage with Millennials, their communications can’t just be a one-way street. Responding to Tweets and Facebook wall postings could go a long way toward winning over today’s young consumers.
  • Reinvent — again and again: Young people are constantly tweaking their online personas. Ninety percent of survey respondents told MTV that it is important how others view them on Facebook, and a third said they “always” modify their photos before posting online. “They constantly and fluidly shift between chosen identities in order to present their ‘best selves and lives’,” MTV said. So while an older generation may have wanted their brands to project an air of consistency, Millennials crave just the opposite. MTV pointed to Google as a key example of a brand successfully co-opting this, with its daily changes to its homepage logo.

If you have any other ideas for connecting with Millennials, please chime in using the comments.