What Motivates Millennials to Act?

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This question kicked off the “The Art of Activating Millennials” on Monday morning, and each of the six featured panelists agreed that what matters most to millennials today, whether deciding to take a certain job, buy a certain product or stand up for a social cause, is creating memorable experiences.

Lydia Daly, Senior Vice President of Social Media and Branded Content at Viacom, began the discussion by talking about the prominence of social media and its relation to millennial behavior. She thinks that social media has become one of the most important ways millennials create and share experiences.

“Their virtual life is just as important as their real life,” Daly said. For companies, this means providing content that engages millennials across all social media touch points and allows users to be creative by adding their own personal touch, whether it be an ad campaign or social cause, is essential.

Daly discussed her recent campaign for the VMA’s which used an AR app to create a dancing hologram that users could send to their friends. The design of the ad allowed users to engage directly with the content and build a community through the act of sharing the video, two elements that help generate the memorable experience that millennials’ value.

Tamika Mallory, Civil Rights Activist and Co-Founder of the Women’s March, highlighted the importance of images in telling compelling stories that incite action, pointing to the recent #TakeAKnee movement, which inspired support of NFL athletes protesting during games.

“Posting on social media, showing where you are and how you’re feeling, is an experience, a form of storytelling that is able to move audiences,” Mallory said.

The panelists also discussed that while millennials often want to take action and facilitate change to large systems today, they don’t always know the best way to go about doing so. Aria Finger, CEO of DoSomething.org, believes companies can help guide millennials in this effort.

“People don’t act because they aren’t empathetic, it’s that they don’t know how,” Finger said. “If brands can give millennials easy, impactful ways to make a change, that is a big win.”

The panelists said this can be as simple as companies creating a supportive workspace that allows employees to feel comfortable discussing and taking stands on social issues. Another way is creating campaigns that address their target demographics’ social concerns or align with their values, showing millennials that they understand and care about them as people.

Liz Wessel, Co-Founder and CEO of WayUp, stressed the importance of community among millennials. She believes all companies and social movements should consider the aspect of building community when it comes to attracting and activating the millennial demographic.

“Brands used to be about exclusivity,” Wessel said. “Now it’s about community and communicating.”

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