Q&A: Jenna Barrott on Social Media Marketing to Millennials

Millennials—people born between the 1980s and the beginning of the 2000s—represent a diverse and engaged generation but also a puzzle for marketers and businesses who are often confused about the best ways to reach them. Matt Hansen interviewed me about ways brands and businesses can use social media to reach this coveted generation. We talked about how traditional advertising doesn’t fare well on social media, alternatives companies can use to reach potential customers, and the power of influence on the web.
Q: What do you think works on Facebook from a marketing perspective?
A: In my opinion, it has to serve the users. Facebook content should represent the company trying to reach a person and their needs directly.
Q: What would be the ideal use of Facebook for a company which, for example, is looking to launch a new product or service?
A: I believe Facebook should be used for public relations, not for advertising. It should incorporate visuals, because it has a strong visual aspect to it. And it should be interesting. For example, companies could bring in articles or images to share. It can be multi-dimensional. Here’s what I mean: you wouldn’t look at an advertisement and click on it and re-share it with friends. It needs to be content that’s social.
Q: So something that people can actually interact with?
A: Yes, it needs to be something dynamic.
Q: Does that same rule apply to Twitter? Some people see it as a broadcast medium, while others see it as a way to have conversations.
A: Twitter is an interesting case. I know in Australia, where I’m from, no one is on Twitter, at least not from a social standpoint anyway. A lot of people use it instead for political and social stances. It’s not very popular and it’s not ideal for advertisements. Instead it’s a supplementary platform for other marketing.
However, Twitter is a useful way to interact with companies and could be useful from a customer service standpoint. You can tweet directly to a company and they can reply.
I see it as a place for straightforward communication. If I want to get directly in touch with a company, I feel that they are more likely to reply on Twitter.
Q: Neither Facebook or Twitter are platforms where traditional marketing and advertising really works, in your opinion. How about Instagram, where companies can display visual ads?
A: Probably more so, because it is more visual, but again, Instagram is very self-serving. If you enjoy a certain band or an Instagram star, you’ll follow them. It’s a platform to be creative. There is also not much interaction on Instagram. It’s much more of an inspiration platform.
So while it may be a better place to advertise because it is so visual, I wouldn’t say it’s an appropriate place for a call to action advertisement or anything like that, aside from a hyperlink in the bio.
The idea behind Instagram, I felt, was always more of an inspirational platform, like Pinterest.
Q: We’ve talked about the three main social media platforms that confound many marketers. From your perspective, it sounds like traditional marketing and advertising doesn’t work well on any of them.
A: No, but sponsored Instagram content does work. If I was going to market on Instagram as a brand, rather than investing in advertising, I would put more of my money towards reaching the right person with a high number of followers. They have a lot more credibility than a well-maintained business Instagram account.
Q: As someone who deals with younger consumers, do you feel they are more likely to be interested in a product or service if someone they respect or admire on Instagram uses it?
A: One hundred percent. Instagram is very much an aspirational platform, where you view the designer life you want to live. So you’ll follow things to do with beauty and sports. If you’re going to advertise on Instagram, I would put your budget towards influencer accounts like that, who have a lot more credibility.
Q: Do you think that’s true for Facebook and Twitter, as well?
A: No, I don’t. Instagram is used almost as a visual pin-up board focused on personality and so-called “Instagram stars.” You don’t have people who are purely famous for being on the other two platforms. So it’s different. People will actually follow brands on Facebook. If I was following a band or an artist, for example, I would follow their page for information, like tour dates.
Q: Let’s say you were following a band or a record label on Facebook or Twitter. Is it appropriate for that band or that record label to share unique content?
A: Definitely. Those two platforms are much more interactive. I would more likely click a link and share content on Facebook and Twitter than elsewhere because they have that interactive nature.
Q: What about other up-and-coming social media platforms, like Snapchat? Do those have any value for companies?
A: I wouldn’t say Snapchat has much utility for brands right now. Probably the closest thing that Snapchat has going for it in terms of advertising are the Stories, where you can follow along with events. For example, Coachella had one. But they are not as good of a fit for a brand or a company. For an event or a person, sure. But on the whole Snapchat is more experiential.
Q: If you had to give one piece of advice to a company or a brand looking to advertise on social media, what would you tell them?
A: Tailor your content to each platform completely. You can’t post the same thing on each platform. You need to look into exactly who is on each platform and make sure your content fits.

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