Successfully connecting to and engaging with millennials is slowly but surely becoming the holy grail of marketing to most organizations. That’s because ignoring them is no longer something business owners can afford to do.

According to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, this cohort of highly educated 18-34 year olds currently possess $200 billion of direct purchasing power. Consider the additional $500 billion of indirect spending power and it’s easy to see why this demographic is so important to the future of business.

The good news is that this generation’s buying power hasn’t peaked yet. In fact, it’s still decades away. However, marketing to these digital natives is somewhat more complex than to previous generations. Their resistance to advertising and traditional marketing gimmicks is at an all-time high, which makes sense considering the media-saturated world they’ve experienced throughout their lives.

Here are three ways businesses can reach out to this generation:

#1 Go Mobile

When most people hear “go mobile”, they think of developing their own mobile application. Although a viable option, it’s not the only one. On average, millennials are already checking their phone 43 times per day. Most of the time, it’s to view posts on their preferred social network(s) or reading texts. So, the smartest and most cost effective way to go mobile is to simply leverage the applications this generation is already using on a daily basis.

The number of active daily visitors checking Facebook, Twitter and Instagram via mobile devices is significantly higher than the number checking the social networks via personal computer. Not to mention, this media allows marketers to target users based on device, location and previously communicated preferences. What better way to communicate a message than through a device that is attached to a target 24/7 and serves ads based on specific consumption patterns?

#2 Be Agile

In order to strategically connect and build a lasting relationship with millennials, it is ideal for brands to not only speak the digital native language, but also show they’re paying attention to current events and joining the conversation. There are a few ways to do this and it starts in the same way it does in the real world‒by talking about the same thing they are talking about. Pay attention to the latest trends on social media and adjust messaging accordingly.

This doesn’t mean hopping on the holiday bandwagon with every other brand. The organizations that really stand out can take a trending news story and turn it into social media gold by joining the conversation and offering an instantaneous reaction to it. Oreo did it right in 2013 during the Super Bowl blackout with tweets about still being able to dunk in the dark. Pay attention to what millennials are talking about and engage with them in a clever way. They’ll appreciate the effort and start paying attention as well.

#3 Think Hostile

This doesn’t mean be hostile towards millennials. It means expect it from them. Ninety-three percent of millennials read online reviews before they make a purchase. Over half of them share product recommendations via social media on a regular basis. Once this demographic is reached by a brand’s strategic messaging, it is crucial that the third party information they find online is positive.

The best way to control this is to produce quality products and/or services that people can’t say anything bad about. But since it’s almost impossible to satisfy everyone, it’s best to encourage the happy ones to talk about it online. Make your product useful to millennials and they will pay attention, maybe even share the message with their network. If you don’t, you might just find various sites, hate pages and online reviews dedicated to your destruction.

Originally published in Nevada Business Magazine.

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