Study: Not All Millennials Use Social Media the Same Way

It can be tempting for brands to just throw an avalanche of emojis at millennials and hope for a LOL[note]At next year’s Yom Kippur, I’ll atone for writing that line.[/note], but Generation Y is a more nuanced demographic than you might expect.

Venture capital firm Battery Ventures and market-research company Ipsos surveyed more than 1,000 people between the ages of 20 and 35 to figure out how they use social media. The results should signal a big warning for marketers: Don’t group all of your millennials together in one basket.

Despite brands’ best efforts to engage millennials with shiny new toys like Snapchat videos, it turns out that not all young people are hooked on social media. The report found that 27 percent of millennials use Facebook less than once a week, and 11 percent don’t even have an account. Additionally, 54 percent don’t have a Snapchat account, and 39 percent aren’t on Twitter.

Why do millennials turn away from some of these platforms? The study identifies two big reasons: general lack of interest and, especially for Facebook, privacy concerns.

Still, if brands want to reach those young, impressionable consumers on social media, they need to understand their audience—and make peace with the fact that not all millennials use social media the same way.

With that in mind, here are three key takeaways from the study, along with tips for how marketers can use them to refine their strategies.

Different networks for different genders

According to the data, millennial women are more likely to skip signing up for Snapchat and Twitter, while millennial men are more likely to forgo Facebook and Pinterest.

Evidently, just throwing all of your social buttons onto your website in any random order isn’t going to cut it.

The report provides a timely example: Instagram has 76 percent more active female users than Twitter. But if you check out the “Follow Us” tab on the campaign website for Hillary Clinton, who’s banking on the votes of young females, Twitter is the second social button listed, and Instagram is last.

If Clinton’s social strategists want to make a subtle move to appeal to more millennial women, they could put a greater emphasis on Instagram (306,000 followers) compared to Twitter (4.32 million followers). However, if a soda brand wants to communicate with young men, it might consider pushing its Twitter account over its Facebook page.

A generation divided

The report found that Instagram and Snapchat usage, in particular, varies with age. Want to reach 20- to 25-year-olds? Those platforms are the place to be. But people in the 26–35 demographic are far less likely to have accounts on those mobile apps.

As the study states, “To lump all millennials together as one group rather than segmenting out the youngest—20–25-year-olds—would be a mischaracterization, and a mistake for marketers.”

Facebook is king

Facebook still wears the crown on social media, boasting more engaged, younger users than Snapchat, Instagram, and Pinterest. By a wide margin, Facebook hosts more active users who make under $50,000 a year, have a college degree, and are not caucasian.

Meanwhile, Twitter is experiencing an engagement problem. Nineteen percent of millennials admitted that they rarely or never use their Twitter accounts, more than Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat, and Pinterest.

For marketers, the big lesson here is to avoid relying on a blanket strategy for a demographic that includes so many nuances. After all, if millennials really are the “It’s All About Me” generation, then they should be targeted on a personal level. Otherwise, with so much noise on social media, they’re just going to tune you out.

Image by Eugenio Marongiu

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