A question regarding the current generation is often being posed: “Are millennials (18-34 years old) really that different  from other recent generations?”

From a marketing standpoint, the answer to this question is imperative to reaching the target market that is predicted to have annual spending of over $2.45 trillion in the next year. Considering millennials comprise 23.5% of the U.S. population, brands can greatly benefit from gaining their support—both fiscal and emotional.

A LinkedIn blogger recently composed a post describing the results she gathered from surveying millennials about their favorite and least favorite brands. The survey shows that millennials consider multiple factors in deciding which brands they support and which they do not, such as social responsibility, marketing campaigns, and product quality versus price.

Millennials are cautious spenders when it comes to luxury goods, but are very generous in donating to charities and participating in philanthropic activities. They also have a strong share of voice across social networks. They spend more time online than any other age group and have an average of 50 more friends than the previous generation. Millennials turn to social media as one of their primary sources for information seeking, sharing, and relationship maintenance.

As a marketer, it’s important to understand what millennials prioritize. Brand perception and engagement are everything. Almost three out of four 12-17 year olds use social networks to talk about products with friends and make recommendations—that’s a lot of influential power. Brands must be aware of the social media habits of millennials to ensure they’re maintaining a positive reputation. Generation Y will passionately advocate for your brand, as long as it coincides with their beliefs.

Twenty-nine percent of millennials check their preferred social networks several times a day.Millennials check their preferred social networks several times a day. The key drivers to social media use are communicating (56%), passing the time (54%), and sharing photos (49%). Other millennial uses of social media include sharing and seeking information and searching for ways to save money.

Millennials understand the potential of word-of-mouth marketing because they’re both influencers and those who are influenced. Millennials are 247% more likely to be influenced by bloggers and social networking sites than previous generations. Nearly half of them claim word of mouth marketing has a bigger impact on their purchase decisions than television. Because they are word of mouth advocates, they’re likely to turn to their own friends and social networks while seeking purchase advice. Almost two-thirds of millennials list friends as a purchase influencer and 63% of them stay updated on brands through their social networks.

Having passion about certain brands and finding deeper reasons to support them drive Gen Y to voice their opinions about brands and products, in addition to considering those of others. Six out of 10 millennials are engaged in rating products and services. Social profiles, review sites, and group settings provide Gen Y with numerous opportunities to get their feelings out. Millennials show their love for brands through liking or following them (62% on Facebook and 23% on Twitter), sharing a link regarding the brand(s) on personal social profiles (2.5x more likely than baby boomers), and rating them online (60%).

To activate your millennial advocates, create content worth sharing. Launching teasers of new products online, exclusive offers, and community service news are great places to start.

Social Savers

When asked why they follow brands on social media, 57% of millennials claimed it was because they wanted competitions and freebies. Overall, Generation Y is on the frugal end when it comes to spending money. In a survey conducted by Accenture, 43% of millennials describe themselves as a “conservative” investor. Brands can appeal to millennials by showing the value in their investment. Implementing reward programs or offering discounts to first-time customers are great ways to entice Gen Y. More than 75% of millennials participate in a loyalty program, and 44% are willing to promote products over social media as long as they’re rewarded in return. Forty-three percent of millennials also check their smartphones for promotions or coupons while in-store, combining their loves of technology and deals (Ryan Jenkins).

Key Takeaway: In order to successfully market to millennials, brands must possess a combination of strong social media skills and an understanding of their wants and needs. Brands can obtain and maintain millennial loyalists through savings and philanthropic appeals. Millennials enjoy voicing their opinions over their social networks and recommending products they support to friends, and they also value the opinions of others in their social circles.

Learn how to activate Millennials to post user-generated content and recommendations across social on your behalf.