Busting Millennial Myths Around Social Media and Technology

As a digital anthropologist, I research, mostly for marketing departments and agencies, how people behave within social media and with technology as a whole. Millennials are a hot topic. Many a brand spends inordinate amounts of time and money to target the Millennial. They think they’ve got them profiled, sorted and thoroughly understood and that they’re some kind of magical money mine. They aren’t. They’re also not really a demographic and can’t truly be marketed too as one.

How Millennials Are Using Social Media
In the past year I’ve completed over 15 different analysis of Millennials behaviours and activities in social media in the U.S., Canada and UK for CPG and financial services companies. So what did we learn? 

  • They aren’t a “lump demographic”, they’re within an age bracket, but there are no specifics, just generalizations.
  • Over 87% of Millennials prefer social media apps that are less public; they dislike the marketing messages in more open apps like Facebook.
  • 59% of Millennials in our research indicate they mistrust over 90% of the news they get in their social media feeds.
  • When it comes to personal information, contrary to general assumptions, over 62% don’t like to share personal details outside a closed group.
  • Those aged 18-24 are more likely to be skeptical of unknown people attempting to be friends in apps like Snap or WhatsApp. But see Facebook and Instagram as more “open” platforms while sharing less information publicly.
  • Over 76% of those aged 18-35 say a primary part of choosing a new app is that it has the ability to have private messaging.
  • Over 56% of those aged 18-35 dislike the term “Millennial” and find it a derogatory term.

This is based on an overall sample size of n=75,000 individuals conversing about how they use social media in their channels in the US, UK and Canada between January and November 2016.

Millennials and Technology
While the media images of “Millennials" have them almost always face-in-smartphone, the relationship those in their 20’s and early 30’s have with technology is quite different from what one might expect.

  • Home automation tools like Amazon Echo or Nest aren’t really that interesting to them; largely because they don’t own houses and are highly urbanized and very much into “buying local” and a more social approach to shopping that is physical. Those aged 18-35 rarely have a house and don’t have as much disposable income either.
  • They’re 60% more likely to buy small commodity items on a mobile than via a laptop/dekstop or some home automation device.
  • Only about 12% of Millennials have an interest in wearables and tracking their fitness.
  • Just over 43% of those aged 18-35 say they don’t look for apps outside those pre-installed on the device they buy (i.e. the Mail app on iPhone or Outlook on Windows.)
  • 48% say they are looking to reduce the amount of technology in their daily lives.

We have a lot more data and insights than what we’re delivering here. But we think these are some pretty big insights. Millennials don’t like being called that and really, marketing to a specific demographic is a bit like trying to do a  direct mail campaign to unicorns.

What marketing departments tend to miss is that those aged 18-35 don’t have a lot of disposable income and in fact, have less disposable income today than their parents did at the same age.

Across many global consumer brands, we see this odd desire to leap on the bandwagon to market to “Millennials”, which is fine if you have a lower price point product. But price elasticity in the 18-35 group is much tighter. There are also significant economic disparities between those aged 18-25 (who have minimal disposable income and are in an entirely different life phase) and those 25-35, even those 30+ are very different in life stage.

Stay tuned for some further insights into how those aged 18-35 choose products and view brand loyalties.