Generation Why: Engaging Millennials in an Era Where We Question Everything.

Generation Why: Engaging Millennials in an Era Where We Question Everything.

In conversation, “millennial engagement” often morphs into a discussion on “digital engagement.” This seems somewhat logical too given how data suggests that millennials (Roughly those of us aged between eighteen to thirty-five.) are generally a technologically savvy and socially connected bunch. 

It seems that the emergence of new technological tools may be causing institutional leaders to second guess themselves out of valuable expertise that makes them leaders in the first place. While we millennials represent the first generation of “digital natives“, our wiring isn’t completely different than those who have come before us. This type of thinking (i.e., how better to engage millennials) needs a strategic refocusing on what really matters. Here are four distractions embedded within the “millennial engagement” mentality that are steering organisational leaders away from what is- and perhaps always has been- most important.  

Thanks in large part to the real-time nature of social media, potential visitors and supporters are now able to make their own immediate assessments of an organisation based on how it communicates. Enterprises should aim to constantly show who they are. Audiences trust what they see more than what you tell them. An organisation may post certain things related to its mission on social platforms, but if the overall essence of the posts doesn’t match that “promise”, it risks eroding perceived trust. In this sense, organisations are showing their values as opposed to simply telling audiences about them. 

If a topic isn’t relevant to your target audience, then they are unlikely to be meaningful to your audience. To be clear, being relevant is different than being timely or simply being present on digital platforms. Many organisations seem to believe that declaring the importance of a topic will help it rise above the noise that pollutes our inboxes and newsfeed. Social media is a tool. A company’s stories and information is the true connector. In order to attract younger audiences, it makes sense that those stories should be important to them and not just important as determined by the company heads. 

 Impressions are the word that may be tricking leaders into believing that their tried and tested experiences don’t apply in the digital world. In other words, the sheer number of millennials who see an organisation’s social media channels or website is less important than the number of people who were influenced by its message. Web-based “vanity metrics” are a new concept serving mostly as a distraction rather than influence. 

The driving motivation behind digital marketing is influencing people and behaviour. Sure, “Knowing Java” and “mastering Facebook’s newsfeed algorithm” have value in the digital world, but communication goals on real-time digital platforms should serve some purpose and mission as rest of the institution. An online donor is still a donor. A website visitor is still a visitor- a person connecting with your brand and mission. The difference is the platform (“connection point”). The goal is the same as in real life. 

Indeed we millennials have distinct data-informed characteristics that define our generation. Data suggest that we are civic-minded, socially connected “digital natives” who are used to the attention and believe we are special. We are different, just as members of Generation X and Baby Boomer’s profile differently from their respective generational predecessors. 

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