Why Millennials Make Great Marketers
There have been a lot of articles about what's supposedly wrong with Millennials. That's OK, there were a lot of articles about what was wrong with Gen X, too. It happens to every generation (and here's a selection of historical quotes to show you just how far back that goes). It even happened to the Baby Boomers.
And yes, one day Millennials will be the elder generation and they will glamorize their generation's exploits while talking down whoever comes after Gen Z. That's just how it works.
I was born in 1977. That makes me a late Gen Xer. I've had the chance to work with many Millennials, though, and overall I've been pretty impressed with what I've seen.
Here are three qualities, based on nothing more than my own personal experiences, that I think get overlooked when we're worried about who's staring at their phones.
Taken as a whole, these qualities are why Millennials make great marketers.
1. Millennials Are True Digital Media Natives
When we're hiring someone coming out of college for an editorial role, I'm looking for candidates who've been doing daily blogging, vlogging and/or social media on their own as a personal pursuit. Many Millennials enter the workforce knowing how to shoot and edit video the same way I knew how to use Word and Excel. They've lived with multimedia capabilities in their phones since school, and they've used it. They get how to build audience on social media and interact with them. They communicate visually.
These are valuable skillsets that you generally only find in specialists from Gen X and Baby Boomers. Many Millennials picked them up on the side, and bring them to employers essentially for free. These bonus skills alone mean Millennials have the opportunity to move your marketing forward like no generation before them.
2. Millennials Learn Digital Tools Fast
When I first came to NAPCO Media, there were weeks of training on the content management systems, and most of it was wasted time. But that was what we needed to onboard Gen X media workers to fancy digital content platforms (most of which are now defunct).
We use InCopy for magazine content, and although that is much more foreign than WordPress, it's still not too steep a climb for someone who's learned the changing interfaces of social media and apps all their lives.
What used to take one-on-one instruction for days now takes a sheet of instruction, a conversation and some ongoing check-ups to fine tune their work to our standards.
3. Millennials Want to be Challenged
One of the complaints I've heard about Millennials is that they're impatient, and they want promotions and raises before they've earned them. This comes, in part, from not challenging them.
Computers and the Internet have impacted the generations in vastly different ways. The tech that was disruptive to Baby Boomers and cutting edge for Gen X is as common place as washing machines and telephones to Millennials. They're used to being the ones who explain technology and online tools to their elders.When it comes to digital marketing, that means this is essentially a gifted generation. They are going to think they know it better than their bosses. The best response to that is to let them try to prove it. You need to give them the chance to excel, and do special, satisfying things — and sometimes even fail.
That doesn't mean they don't have to do their share of the grunt work. But it might mean handing off a social media channel, or letting them pursue an idea you weren't necessarily planning to pursue. Give Millennial workers that chance to do something special, without taking away core responsibilities, and see where it takes you.
If they succeed, the company benefits. If they don't, at least they come out better understanding what it means to take ownership of something at work.
Takeaway: It's About Unleashing, Not Controlling
There's a great line in Dune (one of my favorite books) that amounts to this: If I command him to do it, I'll have to command him to do it every time. If I show him why it needs to be done, I can count on him to do it on his own.
When it comes to Millennials in marketing, that goes double. If you micromanage them, many Millennials zone out, get passive, and then you need to make sure every task is done. But when they buy in to what you need to do and understand why, most have even more motivation and ambition than the generations that came before.
And when you can unleash them on their passion projects, or let them leverage the things they understand intrinsically as digital natives that your other employees don't, then I think Millennials can move your company forward like no other generation on the team.