More than Cell Phones and Selfies

As the Millennial population outnumbers previous generations, it is increasingly important to know how to engage with Millennials.

As the Millennial population outnumbers previous generations, it is increasingly important to know how to engage with Millennials.

Contrary to popular belief, Millennials are a lot more plugged in than you think.

You can point to individual Millennials who seem narcissistic, lazy and addicted to smartphones, just as you can find stereotypical behaviors in older generations. However, if marketers believe these stereotypes, they won't have much success communicating and engaging with Millennials. 

As a Millennial myself, I urge you to consider my generation as highly innovative risk-takers and leaders in social, political and technological change.

Here are some specific recommendations for getting past stereotypes and onto engagement:  

1. Millennials are empathetic and aware.

Millennials may seem narcissistic, but we are actually highly empathetic. We are aware of what is going on around us locally and globally.

Don't assume that we are culturally and politically unaware just because we are too busy taking selfies and sharing photos of what we ate for breakfast. This stereotype ignores how Millennials put social media to good use by sharing relevant news articles, making professional connections and using their online influence to facilitate social change. While we are less likely to pick up a newspaper, social media allows us to consume a wide array of news at a fast pace, every day.  

2. Millennials work hard. 

The Millennial generation faces a rapidly changing job market that demands increasing amounts of education at a time when college tuition and student debt has skyrocketed. To succeed, we have to work hard and perhaps smarter than previous generations. 

More and more entry-level jobs require a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. Rising tuition costs force Millennials to take on a huge risk in acquiring thousands of dollars of debt to get advanced education. As a result, many Millennials are highly educated and have a strong work ethic to compete in an ever more competitive job market.  

3. Millennial’s know how to communicate.  

Many articles have been written about the digital age and how Millennials are unable to form coherent sentences because of our love for texting and tweeting. However, Millennials are far more equipped to communicate in the fast-paced world in which we live.

Texting and tweeting allows us to get our point across quickly in a few words or through pictures or videos. Research shows this is actually the most effective way to communicate, and Millennials are experts at it.  

4. Millennials do have a short attention span.

While I hate stereotyping, I have to admit Millennials experience a huge amount of stimulation, which can lead to short attention spans. That said, when addressing Millennials, you should use short, memorable phrases to get your point across clearly and use a variety of platforms.  But that's also true when communicating with any generation.

5. Be quirky and innovative. 

Generic ads simply don't work. You would have better success with quirky ways to get your point across to Millennials.

For example, BuzzFeed was hired to promote Fur Baby Rescue, a pet shelter based in Los Angeles. Rather than dragging out the stereotypical Sarah McLachlan song and bombarding you with images of sad puppies, BuzzFeed took a different approach. It hosted an open-bar reception for female employees, then surprised them with puppies and filmed their reactions.

What followed was a hilarious account of crying, hysteria and genuine happiness. At the end of the video, BuzzFeed thanked Fur Baby Rescue and promoted its website. The video received more than 575,750 shares on Facebook.

Long story short, you need to think outside the box in marketing yourself or your company, or else Millennials won't notice. We want to see something we have never seen before.

6. Pay attention to media that receives the most "likes" and "shares." 

Be attentive to what Millennials share on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Are there common themes and topics that are shared more than others? What exactly are Millennials responding to? Apply these themes and topics when you attempt to engage us.

7. Millennials are highly optimistic and starving for change – and you should be, too.

Millennials are largely concerned with human rights issues, specifically black rights, LGBTQ and feminist movements. We are making headway in changing social norms and views through protests, representations in the news and social media and stepping up the demand for political reform. 

For the most part, we believe we can change the world and we are willing to work hard to achieve it. Be open to our ideas, listen to what we have to say and embrace it.

(This is a guest blog by Sophia Meyer, 20, a sophomore at the University of Oregon in its School of Journalism and Communication. She was asked to write about communicating with Millennials.)