By now, most established companies understand that brands cannot ignore the power of social media. What once seemed like a fad, has now proven itself to be the new frontier of marketing. Every day, companies move from Facebook and Twitter onto sites like Pinterest, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumblr, or Periscope to reach out to a broader audience and grow brand strength. If you ask marketers at these companies who their main social media target is, many will proudly proclaim that their target is millennials, which makes it almost embarrassing how even major brands fail when it comes to reaching millennials via social media.
Despite the fact that many of us millennials are beginning to flood the job market, many companies claim not to understand millennial expectations. There are numerous articles all expressing a range of emotions from confusion to disbelief concerning this generation’s desires and motivators. However, I would argue that for any company on social media the issue doesn’t come from not understanding millennials. The issue stems from not understanding what millennials expect on social media.
Social media sites do not work like traditional web advertising, where a company could have one banner ad on multiple sites and see clicks come pouring in. It certainly doesn’t work like traditional newspaper or even television ads, where a company was essentially shouting into the void about its brand. The truth of social media is hidden there in its name. It is social. And that means that any brand that wants to make a real impact, has to know how to make a connection. For most of us, this isn’t news. Where we see companies fall apart, and what we don’t think many realize, is that every social media site is completely different. Not just in structure, but in the experience that the target will expect to see on the site.
The experience that someone is seeking when they log onto Facebook is drastically different than what they might expect on Instagram. Personally, there are companies I am obsessed with on Facebook that we would never consider following on Instagram, because we don’t think they have anything to offer me visually. There are companies we only follow on tumblr and twitter to see witty jokes and memes, but we would never look to see what they’d pin on Pinterest.
We are not suggesting that every company should scrub their social media program entirely. Instead, companies need to be focusing on creating a unique personality online that can be custom tailored to each social media site on which they interact. This is the bare minimum of what millenials, and really all generations, expect when they log on. Every social media marketing department should spend time on their brand to develop a unique but cohesive identity on Instagram, vs. Twitter, vs. Facebook, vs. any other site that they attempt to be on. The department should know how they are going to tweak their brand personality to match the personality of that site. And part of this may be a realization that there just is not a way to make their company’s brand picturesque for Instagram, or categorical for Pinterest. But then, marketers need to feel empowered to choose only those platforms that truly fit the brand personality. After all, between no social media and bad social media, bad social media is much, much worse.