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How to Write for Millennials: Boosting your Engagement with Generation Y

Millennials, also known as Generation Y, are a sought-after target audience - one that has seen a massive shift in culture, marketing and the way we consume and retain information. The rise of the internet, and the many changes that have followed, has been witnessed by a peer group with an analogue childhood that quickly morphed into a 4D surround-sound, instant-download, always-on adulthood. This has produced a generation with a short attention span, a discerning eye for quality content and an old-school sensibility that relies on human connection. Here we cover how best to capture their interest - and what to do once we’ve got it.

But before we go any further, let’s make sure we’re on the same page: what makes a millennial?

What is a millennial?

The widely accepted definition is someone born between 1981 and 1996, making them (at the time of writing) around 25 to 39 years old. There are a number of negative connotations surrounding millennials, and people often confuse them with today’s youth (Gen Z, born between 1997 and 2015), portraying them as self-obsessed spoilt teenagers.

Why should we attract a millennial audience?

In reality, millennials are now all grown up and hold a huge amount of buying and influencing power. As the original ‘digital natives’, their first port of call when looking for a new service or product is to jump online and read comparison websites, user reviews and even competitor feedback (‘5 reasons why OUR product is better than XYZ product’). Millennials expect to be catered to and convinced, and the best way to do so is to serve up a healthy helping of personality and human relatability, carried by welcoming waitstaff (i.e. your written copy).

As a generation, millennials now span a target demographic ranging from young professionals to parents of young children – that’s a huge variety of potential clients and customers with differing needs, and plenty of opportunities to be persuaded to invest in numerous products or services. A large percentage of millennials still live at home or are choosing childfree lifestyles, meaning they have more disposable income available.

However, they’re savvy enough to spot a marketing cliché a mile away and are extremely cynical. Every business, blog or organisation wants their attention, but in an age where millennials are swamped with adverts, email marketing, blogs and social media posts, how do we get it?

How do millennials process information?

Millennials are bombarded with content from the moment they wake up. If you want your information to get through, it needs to be clear, easy to follow and appealing.

  • Let’s start with the headline: pose a question and answer it. For example, question: how do I learn a new language? Answer: ‘6 quick and easy ways to learn a new language’ or ‘How to learn a new language and make it stick’. Both examples contain keywords that will catch attention (and help your SEO), but the second headline also adds a compelling twist - ‘and make it stick’ - that solves a related problem the reader might have.

  • Follow the leader, reader: structuring your article or post is a simple way to keep millennials engaged. Follow up your headline with a clear summary to let them know what they’re in for and use sub-headings and bullet points to help readers easily follow the flow. If they scan and see something that holds their interest, they’ll keep reading.

  • Get to the point: Most people (not just millennials) skim-read these days, and long detailed paragraphs can overwhelm readers or turn them off. Keep your copy tight and to the point and ensure that you keep paragraphs to no more than a few short sentences. (Remember that content looks even longer when viewed on a mobile phone screen, which is how most millennials access content.)

How to appeal to a Millennial mindset

So now you’ve managed to catch and keep a millennial’s interest, how do you make it memorable? How do you transform attention into action?

  • Don’t use the word ‘Millennial’: Millennials hate the ‘M-word’. With so many negative associations to the term, they will immediately assume they’re being mocked or stereotyped, and you’ll lose them before you’ve even started.

  • Avoid clichés, cringey slang and forced memes: Another way to make your millennial audience feel stereotyped is to shoehorn in slang and memes. Use one if it’s relevant and slightly ironic, but carelessly tossing in a ‘Totes emosh’ or ‘Hashtag fail’ is going to look clunky and desperate. Additionally, a great deal of copywriting today is still aimed at Generation X, and millennials grew up with a lot of ‘boomer’ pop culture references that are extremely overdone. Phrases like ‘it’s for the birds’, ‘until the cows come home’, ‘think outside the box’ and so on are likely to make their eyes glaze over.

  • Explain why they should care: This pairs up nicely with ‘get to the point’ - tell them quickly and clearly why your product or service will help them. This is a key point of building brand equity: your audience wants to know who you are, what you’re about, and what benefit will ‘you plus them’ bring, either to themselves or a cause they care about. Build trust.

  • Connect with your audience: Studies have shown that people buy with their feelings, not with logic, and millennials have been encouraged to express their emotions and embrace their passions more than any previous generation. Use emotive, personal language in an authentic way to reach your audience.

  • Tell stories: As author Simon Sinek said, “People don't buy what you do; they buy why you do it.” What’s unique to your brand is your story, both yours and your customers’. Explain how what you do has impacted other businesses or the lives of individuals. Get personal, get emotional - but be authentic. Millennials reject marketing patter or faceless corporations, but they love reading real stories of real people.

  • Make it easy to share: Word of mouth, people power and recommendations mean a great deal to millennials, who are known for sharing their experiences online. If they read something they love, they are likely to share it. Write authentic, heartwarming content, but also incorporate what millennial singer and rapper Cardi B calls “quotable”: short, emotive extracts that are highly shareable on social media.

But most of all, talk to millennials as people - with hopes, dreams and fears just like those of any other generation. These days, most of us have the freedom to choose what content we deem worth engaging with. So show your value. Provide genuine, well-written content, presented succinctly in a clear way, and you’ll be rewarded with engagement from your audience - of all generations.

If you’re struggling with how to connect with your audience, we can help. Find out more about our specialist copywriting services and get in touch today for a free no-obligation consultation.

What about Generation Z? Look out for our next article on writing for the ‘Zoomers’.

Written by Lisa P./LLS

Photos courtesy of Canva


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