It’s 2016, and we live in a world where President Obama has Snapchat, presidential candidates rely on Twitter, Taco Bell Instagrams photos of its food, and Facebook users can ruin a giant tech company’s marketing campaigns. Ten years ago, Snapchat, Instagram and Twitter weren’t even words, never mind verbs.

The millennial generation came of age with the onslaught of social media, integrating Tweets and status updates into their daily lives seamlessly. So what’s the secret to engaging this coveted age group? Jumpshot’s VP of Marketing Randy Antin gave us his two cents, which we supplemented with perspectives from our own millennial employees, like Designer Andrew Redoble, Office Manager Taylor Sanders, and Data Analysts Joanna Nguyen, Robert Wallace and Nirati Gautam. Read on for valuable insights and projections into the world of social media.

How important is it for brands to engage with millennials on social media?

Randy: Millennials are the always-connected generation. They were born into an a world where Google is the default and most of the conversations take place online. Therefore, brands absolutely must have a solid social media stance and strategy to engage this demographic. And authenticity is imperative – millennials like brands that support and cultivate a relationship with them; they want to talk and not just listen to brand messaging.

There’s a fine line between being engaging or thought provoking and being controversial for the sake of rocking the boat. I can think of countless examples of brands receiving backlash on social media – not necessarily due to their social strategies or initiatives, but simply because of misguided marketing campaigns that went viral thanks to social media. Airbnb’s fall fallout is a great example of marketing campaigns backfiring due to social media. Last fall, Airbnb billboards and print ads started cropping up all over San Francisco. These ads seemed to take a passive aggressive stance toward funding public services. With jabs at public libraries and city infrastructure projects, San Franciscans took to social media to express their distaste.

Airbnb passive agressive ads in SF

Amazon’s decision to place advertisements with Nazi symbols all over the New York City subway system in an effort to gauge interest in its new original hit show The Man in the High Castle is another good example of how a marketing campaign can go bad, fast. This campaign got completely butchered online, resulting in the ads being removed the following day.

Nirati: It is important for brands to engage to keep themselves in the minds of millennials, but some brands over-engage and become annoying. Sprinkles is a good example of a brand that does it right, they don’t post that often but when they do they mostly included free/discounted cupcakes.

Where do you need to be in order to engage millennials?

Randy: You have to find a way to appear on their phones. There are various ways of accomplishing this, from launching your own apps through in-app partnerships and promotions, to display ads and notifications. With that said, we cannot forget about desktop traffic, which should still be a leading priority. Afterall, millennials are a huge part of today’s workforce, meaning that during the day they’re browsing the web from their computers. And these days the line between work and play on the Internet is blurry – 10 years ago it was considered taboo to internet browse at work, but now it’s normal to have a million tabs open; people are constantly flipping back and forth between work, social media and online shopping sites.

Andrew: Facebook, in-app, YouTube, Twitter, Instagram, etc. Just having a social media presence is very helpful for engagement.

Robert: Either by interstitials on web pages, partnering in-app, or through notification ads.

Explain why millennials are sometimes perceived as being the ‘ADHD’ generation.

Randy: The sheer volume of content out there – and the fact that we view it all on the go – contribute to the perception of this generation being ‘ADHD’. They skim through their feeds, so your headline and content has to catch their eye and grab their attention. This generation also steers away from anything that looks like an ad, so billboards and display advertising do not work on them. However, millennials do not mind native ad formats, like Instagram-sponsored posts, as long as they are visually appealing, entertaining or have some other added value. Brands need to tailor their messaging and ads to their target and platform to insure millennials see them at all.

Andrew: The ‘newsfeed layout’ has given millennials a natural instinct to keep scrolling for more content almost instantly. The speed of discovering new content with just one simple motion is probably what gives us ADHD.

Taylor: There is so much out there that we are easily distracted and bored. You need to find a way to stick out to us and make us click on your photo, ad, etc. Find a way to relate to us, make us feel like we need your services.  

Joanna: Millennials want everything instantly. If a text is too long, people will just skim right through it and possibly miss details, which is why it’s important to keep things short and sweet. For example: the term ‘tl;dr’ (too long, didn’t read) did not exist before the dawn of millennials.

Were you surprised when the White House announced that it created its own Snapchat account before Obama’s recent State of the Union speech?

Randy Antin: Obama is the first US president to take social media seriously, with Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and now Snapchat. This is a consistent move that I believe will have a lasting effect on millennials. With Snapchat, users get an exclusive behind-the-scenes look to see what’s going on. It’s the first time we’ve gotten to see the real people and the candid moments behind the administration. This move made millennials feel like they were being included in a major event – they weren’t just passively watching it.  

Andrew: I wasn’t surprised by the Snapchat account. It’s a smart move since many Millennials will be viewing their Snapchat feed instead of watching TV. I think this will have a lasting effect because this makes the Obama administration seem more current and relatable.

What brands do the best job in engaging millennials and what is it exactly that they are doing?

Randy: Apple’s focus on aesthetics is above and beyond. They’ve managed to make Apple products transcend being just a status symbol – they’re a life symbol. It’s hard to imagine life before Apple. Starbucks also does a fantastic job; they’re forward-thinking with mobile ads and mobile payments, and they even create drinks with branding in mind (example: the pumpkin spice latte craze). For a generation that doesn’t like global corporate conglomerates, Starbucks has managed to figure out what their customers want and is able to engage with millennials.

Joanna: Target does a pretty good job – I appreciate how they give out free things on occasion. Pizza Hut and Taco Bell humorously respond to people who post on their facebook page, which I find endearing.  

Nirati: Southwest Airlines – they will apologize (and sometimes give you travel vouchers) if you complain about delays on Twitter.

In your opinion, where will the state of social media be in 10, 20 years from now?

Randy: In my opinion, social media won’t exist. Everything will be so connected that the concept of social media is going to vanish, because it will be integrated into everything (think IoT). I can already control my home security system from my phone, and can broadcast that to the world if I want to (I would never – but I could!). Social media companies will not look the way they do now, because you won’t need to consciously ‘do’ social media anymore. You won’t need to write a 140 character Tweet – your wearable or any other connected device will do it for you, based on your actions, location, etc. In 20 years, It will be nearly impossible, if not taboo to ‘opt-out’ of social media – which is already hard enough today. The mid 90s and early 2000s were all about the rise of major Internet companies, the mid 2000s ushered in the social media era, and from now until the foreseeable future tech will focus on artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotics, to connect us in ways we never thought possible.

Bottom line: If you want millennials to be exposed to your brand you have to know how to use social media to their liking. You also need to cultivate a relationship with them to stay on top of their minds. These day, brands need to tailor their messaging and outreach more than ever to capture, engage and retain millennials users. Keep your message short and sweet, and most importantly make sure you provide some sort of value, because millennials hate boring display ads.