Engaging Millennials

I have lost track of the number of times articles on customer and citizen engagement talk about millennials and their unique characteristics – it seems to have reached mythical dimensions. So what is this “millennial phenomenon?”

What sets millennials apart from other generations, namely Baby Boomers and Gen-Xrs, is that this is the first generation to grow up in an interactive digital world – the so-called “digital natives.” To millennials, mobile and social technologies are what the telephone and the radio were for Baby-Boomers in their youth. Immediately accessing information and instantly communicating and sharing is second nature for this generation.

As a result, they expect not only immediacy of information but also brevity and conciseness of communication. It’s not that they have the attention span of a child but, rather, they have been conditioned to quickly process high volumes of information. They are also very visual; not surprising considering that the average young adult watches over 500 videos on line a month – from a collection of 75+ billion videos available on line (Comscore Video Metrix survey 2014). Given the gargantuan volume of information available digitally, millennials tend to be very selective about the information (or services) they want. And, in the process of getting them, they seek to have a personalized experience.

Given all that has been written about millennials, one would think the differences run far deeper. But the evidence seems to indicate that is not the case. IBM conducted a study about the preferences and behavioral patterns of millennials in the workplace. Their findings: Other than for their technology savvy, millennials are a lot like their older colleagues. They have similar career aspirations, desire for recognition and level of comfort making decisions on their own. A Fizziology report on social media communications found that, by and large, all three generations converse on-line about popular social topics a comparable amount.

So how to best engage millennials? Here are some tips from the experts:

– With smartphones and tablets as their standard equipment, mobile presence is a must. The key here is that the on-line experience across platforms has to be seamless, regardless of the device being used.

– Keep in mind that millennials span three decades and, as a result, there is a lot of variation in their interests and preferences. The youngest millennials are still teenagers while the oldest ones are marrying and having children. When developing an engagement strategy, you need to ensure you utilize the channels and platforms that your target millennial segment utilizes. Just as important, the content you create needs to be relevant to the channel where it is published. Otherwise, it will not resonate with your target audience.

– Appeal to their visual sense and desire for a personalized experience by using interactive applications. Applications that allow the user to zoom, spin, rotate and interact with an object virtually the same way one would with a real product will provide for a more engaging and personalized experience.

– Keep the communications brief and concise. Otherwise you run the risk of losing your audience’s attention.

You might note that there is little mention about social media here. While social media is a great tool for marketing products and services to millennials, it has limited utility in eGovernment applications. Why? Because of privacy concerns. Millennials are keenly aware of data mining practices of social media providers and they want to keep aspects of their life such as their dealings with the government private. To wit, a recent Accenture #AFSFedPulse survey found that only 20% of millennials living in the Washington DC metro-area would use Facebook or Twitter to receive information from the government.

So, yes, millennials are different – but not so different.

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