A new technological trend identified in Trendwatching.com’s 2010 Trend Report is infolust – "Experienced consumers are lusting after detailed information on anything and anyone. Which is why millions of sites, services, devices and apps that facilitate instant checking, tracking, alerting, visualizing, analyzing, mapping and so on are hotter than ever.”
From a psychological perspective, Trendwatching speculates that the drive behind the desire to constantly be in touch is “a basic human need: the need for power and empowerment, or at least the illusion thereof.”
Why is this trend important? If companies are able to bring their products and services to the top of consumers minds using checking and tracking methods, they will be much more successful. Taking advantage of this method of advertising is relatively cheap, efficient, and provides the ability to do narrow targeting.
Are millennials in on this trend? Of course they are. Let’s take a look at what technologies Millennials are using most. The group of 80 million millennials is comprised of those born from 1980-1995 – in 2009, this age range represents 14-29 year olds. ComScore reports that the smallest user groups of Twitter are actually 12-24 year olds (Search Engine Watch). This is likely due to this group being used to using Facebook’s ‘status update’ function and not seeing a need to duplicate efforts when most of their peers aren’t on Twitter yet. However, the 25-34 year olds are the second-largest user group of Twitter. Companies looking to target the older portion of the millennial generation could see success using Twitter to do so. Millennials seem to dominate Facebook much more than Twitter: “The largest block of Facebook users is still ages 18 to 25, followed by 26-to-34-year-olds. Taken together, those groups made up 51% of the user population.” (eMarketer) This is the opposite usage pattern of Twitter for the two age groups. Taking the Twitter and Facebook statistics together, one could hypothesize that where 25-34 year olds are not using Facebook, they are using Twitter instead. This is likely related to the timing of the rise in popularity of Facebook occurring while the younger 12-24 year olds were still in school, which the network was originally intended for. One fact remains – the desire to remain connected amongst millennial users. Twitter stands to increase millennial membership, with Nielsen reporting annual growth rates of 1,382 percent for Twitter versus 200 percent for Facebook (Mashable). So Twitter should be considered ‘one to watch’ while Facebook should be the primary avenue for companies targeting millennials. Cell phone usage, especially smartphones, is also on the rise. The Smartphone growth rate in 2009 is expected to be 18.7% (Nasdaq), while eMarketer predicts that the penetration rate for mobile users will increase to 100% by 2013 (eMarketer). It is no surprise that many of these new users will be millennials.
Why is it important for millennials to be constantly updated with seemingly useless information such as when their friend from high school brushed their hair? For one thing, it allows them to constantly stay updated with what their friends in their extended networks are up to. An example of this occurred recently when I ran into an acquaintance that I hadn’t seen for about seven years. Although we hadn’t spoken in all that time, we both were completely up to date with what the other person had been up to during all that time – thanks to Facebook. Imagine if companies could keep consumers this updated with their new promotions and products.
A second reason that millennials are actively engaged in checking and tracking is so that they can keep up with what is hot and happening among their peers, whether this consists of events, products, websites, etc. This is what companies can use to their advantage. The spread of popular Youtube videos and new websites such as FML is largely attributed to Facebook. And the same can be done for products. What’s the first thing most millennials do when they make a big purchase? Post about it on Facebook. Other millennials see this, and want the products too. Due to the nature of Facebook friend lists and activity transparency, it is fairly easy to identify key influencers on the social networking site.
What are some actionable ways that companies use the millennial obsession with checking and tracking to their advantage?
1. Provide useful and relevant information that can be ‘checked and tracked’ via Facebook fan pages that are created for your company and/or brands. For example, a millennial wants to know when something is going on sale, how much it will cost, and what other special deals they can have access to. Don’t just make a Facebook fan page for the sake of having one – give millennials a reason to join it.
2. Identify key influencers on Facebook and harness them to help your cause (but keep it ethical). An example could include noticing someone on your Facebook fan page that is doing a lot of activity, and then asking them to help publicize a charity event you are having in exchange for coupons.
3. Facebook advertising: if you’re not doing this yet, get on it. In a Business Week article from last year, a CEO says "there's no better marketing tool." (Business Week) With the combination of the ability to segment extremely narrowly using the interests and demographics entered by users on their profiles, and the possibility of doing it extremely cheaply with Cost Per Click plans, it seems that this statement may just be true. With Facebook advertising, you can be in touch with your consumers while they are checking and tracking what their friends are up to – something that millennials seem to spend much more time doing than engaging with traditional advertising mediums such as TV, newspaper or radio.
4. Go mobile. With the advent of Blackberry and iPhone ‘apps’, companies can join in by providing applications that encourage users to check for useful information regarding sales, promotions, events, etc. Companies can even find out if non-Smartphone users might be receptive to receiving texts every so often with this information.