As a Millennial expert, I get this question a lot: How can we get millennials to engage at our association?
I remember presenting at a direct marketing conference and getting a similar — and almost desperate — question from the audience about how to get millennials to listen to their marketing messages. My answer was flippant (okay, I admit, I do that as a speaker sometimes): Start saying stuff worth listening to.
The reasons millennials don’t listen to your marketing messaging is because it’s your messaging. It’s what you want, and you’re still trying to interrupt us as much as you can with your message until the sales numbers go up. This is the digital age, folks. Millennials expect to be delivered content that is actually useful to them — that they would want to share with their friends. That’s not because they’re “entitled.” It’s because that’s what they’ve been getting their whole lives.
So what does this have to do with member engagement? If you want to engage millennials, then learn how to deliver them actual value. And that’s before they join, before they sign up and probably even before you’ve forced them to give you their email address (you do realize they have an email address they use only for spammers, right?). In the digital age, you start by delivering value. Membership and even revenue will come later.
As you think about engaging millennials, here are some tips:
1. Use social objects. This is old-school social media, but give them some “social objects” they can share. What digital products do you have that would be useful to younger professionals in your industry? Give them away for free, and post them where millennials can share them on social media.
2. Give them space to create. This generation has had a lot of power growing up — power to do things, to convene on their own terms and to create. If you have them in your system (like at an annual meeting), then intentionally give them some white space and let them create stuff. Let them create their own programming or their own social gatherings, but within your environment. Does that feel like you’re giving up some control? Welcome to 2016.
3. Give them access and influence. This generation grew up with constant access and influence to the people in the hierarchy with more power than them (i.e., adults). So they expect that in the work world too, but we tend to isolate young professionals in their YP groups or create limited and structured mentoring programs that are hard to manage. Make sure you create channels to connect them to people in the power structure quickly and naturally.
But whatever you do, do something. This is the biggest generation in the history of the United States. Being behind the curve on figuring them out is going to be very costly.
Recently, Jamie Notter hosted an all-millennial panel that discussed ways to engage their generation: