Social Media: A New Hope in the Age of Millennial Skepticism
According to a 2014 Gallup poll, skepticism among Millennials is more profound than that of any previous generation. Confidence in news media has fallen to an all-time low, and expectations of institutions like law enforcement and the nation’s highest courts to act justly have all but deteriorated. Millennials seem to glance sideways at everyone from members of Congress to Wall Street brokers. This is not merely a political trend; it is a cultural trend that continues to shape public life and opinion and develop interesting implications for marketing, advertising and business.
In this age of leeriness toward anyone who is selling something, it’s tough to gain the allegiance of even one consumer. Gone are the days when simply offering quality products and services at a reasonable price was enough to reel in consumers and keep them. Not forgetting that the majority of a given company’s business comes from a small portion of devoted consumers, companies are having to reinvent their marketing and advertising strategies to accommodate up-and-coming skeptical generations and simultaneously win customer loyalty. According to an article written by Adrian Wooldridge, editor of The Economist’s Schumpeter blog, the most increasingly popular and effective approach is to befriend the consumer, which he regards as “the holy grail of advertising.”
Concurrently, there has also been a dramatic shift in how we define “friend,” and whom we refer to as friends. As Facebook approaches 1.5 billion users, Twitter surpasses 974 million, and Instagram reaches 100 million, a growing number of companies want us to “add,” “friend,” “like,” “retweet” and “follow” them on social media. This marketing strategy functions in the hope that the average social media user will view a company as an entity that shares their interests, cares what they think, and has their well-being in mind. Because the average consumer is significantly more likely to trust a word-of-mouth recommendation from a real-life friend than any advertisement, this approach makes sense. If a company is prepared to make each individual consumer feel prioritized and live up to the resulting expectations of service that a “friendship” approach creates, this can certainly work in a company’s favor.
As a case in point, I am exclusively loyal to Amazon, despite holding a gold card membership in the Millennial Skeptics Club. I “like” the company on Facebook, follow them on Twitter and pay yearly fees to be a member of Amazon Prime (frequently taking advantage free two-day shipping and other exclusive offers.) I don’t use any other online store when shopping for gifts, textbooks or anything else, really. I have historically been very pleased with the speed of deliveries, the packaging of ordered products and the ease of tracking purchases from the time I order them until they arrive on my doorstep. Paired with word-of-mouth recommendations, my primary education on the benefits of becoming an Amazon Prime member was administered through social media. As you may have noticed, I have not only become a faithful taxpayer in the Amazon Empire, but a willing and unpaid spokesperson for the company. Though it would be naïve to say that the company is my “friend,” seeing that I pay for the services I receive and that the company certainly profits from my loyalty, my experience as a consumer has been virtually absent of complication, frustration or misleading claims of quality, which is the ultimate foundation of my ardor for Amazon. However, it would be important to note that through quality service and access to convenient benefits and customer service, I have been made to feel as though Amazon treats me as a “friend” might.
If you are a small business owner wondering how to market your products and services in the wake of distrustful postmodernism, despair not. Though marketing your brand to a highly suspicious bunch, brand loyalty is still feasible and possible, even in a generation that may not respond to advertising quite like the last. Social media has provided companies large and small the opportunity to create meaningful connections with their customer bases in a way that has never before been possible. Don’t miss out on the opportunity to connect with your customers, communicate your willingness to meet their related needs and maybe make a friend or two.
Abbi White is a Content Marketing Intern at Fiore Communications.