We are living in a very interesting time these days. While a great deal of us have witnessed the shifts in culture throughout the decades, there are many who have only experienced technology today – the digital world where you understand how to text before you've written your first letter by hand. It's the generation where communication comes in a plethora of forms, and the opportunity to access people, groups, companies and media is just one “tweet” away. We now live in a time where the birth of an idea and its success in the marketplace can be instantaneous, all because of the technological advances and infrastructure in place today. So what does this all mean? It means that growing up in an environment where your reality enables extreme access and opportunity will inevitably wire you differently. You see the world as one big open canvas, where you call the shots. Whether through career, education, or popular culture, you see yourself as the driving force behind whatever you want to create – the master of your domain. You're a part of the ‘click generation'; if you want it, it's merely a click away. It's one thing to be a part of this generation, moving amongst it with an innate understanding of the expectations, but what if you weren't born in this generation? How do you engage with individuals of this generation? It's become a hot button issue as companies, educational institutions, television networks, and even governments all try to understand how they can really engage millennials with true depth and authenticity; essentially, how to move them into action.
There are some truly unique ways to identify and engage authentically with millennials. I've always been a fan of stepping back and analyzing situations for what they are. I find the new generation of youth fascinating and exciting, and it's amazing what you learn when you simply listen. That's the first way into the millennial experience, listening. Don't limit yourself to one-on-one conversation; you need to listen on multi-level platforms, such as social media, so you can actively engage in the realms where they are doing the majority of their communicating. We are often mistaken when we make assumptions about another's needs and desires based on perception, but through listening, we leave the guessing out of it and can identify exactly what they want. The answers are right there if we care to see it, and this is why we're seeing a clear shift to continuous social media monitoring of conversations, brands and companies creating opportunities and infrastructure for thought sharing – simply to foster the opportunity for dialogue; thus an opportunity to hear.
To truly connect with the millennial population, you must be where they are. Even though there are so many mediums where millenials play, it is important to identify what those mediums are and understand how they are used. We all have areas where we feel most comfortable. For some, it may be at home; for others, it may be in the office. Whatever the case, there are areas where we are most relaxed and willing to share, communicate, and, simply, be ourselves. Understanding this as it relates to millenials allows us to truly foster the right opportunities for exchange of knowledge and information. Being where they are also sets up the opportunity to earn the right to engage. Understanding how and where they prefer to converse shows a willingness to see things through their lenses, legitimizing the desire to engage.
This brings me to my next point, engagement. Given the times we live in, it's important to understand the shift in influence. It is no longer a one-way conversation between institution (whether that be educational, corporate or political) and individual/consumer. The way to get a product off the shelves today is far more complex than it was 50 years ago. So how do brands connect with the savvy millennial demographic? How do they move them to act? It is my belief that in order to access a specific body of individuals, you must incorporate them into the development of any plan that relates to them. It is important to engage millenials not just once the “product” is created, but throughout the process of creation. At TEN81 Lifestyle Inc., when we're developing a youth related pitch, we are continuously opening our doors and bringing in young people who are of the target demographic we're seeking to engage. We aim to involve them in the process on the ground level to create a true sense of authenticity – concept development for youth, by youth. You cannot fake authenticity, and the best way to maintain it is to truly bring your target audience along for the ride.
While breaking down the process of millennial engagement, it is evident there really isn't a science to it. Listening, environment, and engagement are not revolutionary terms; they are simple, timeless methods that, when embraced, prove effective.The irony here is that some of the strongest methods to connecting to millenials are similar to the ways in which we look to truly connect with any other human being. The key word here being, human. If we understand that at the end of the day we are all human beings with a true desire to be heard, felt, and connected to, then it really does reshape our outlook on engagement. It becomes less of a scientific plan meant to coerce and more of a genuine and open effort to engage, hear and listen. So the next time you ask yourself, “What's the best way to connect to a millennial in today's marketplace?” Simply ask yourself, “How would I want to be engaged?” The answer is closer than you think.