What content engages millennials? We asked creative pros for Vice, Tastemade, Ranker, and Knew Money to share content they love and why it worked.
Millennials. They’re unlike any generation America has ever seen. They comprise nearly half of America’s workforce, change jobs with frequency, and stay shackled to debt while simultaneously possessing a great love for $15 avocado toast. Reportedly.
But no matter how much avocado toast they throw down, millennials have one hunger that will always pale in comparison: an unquenchable desire for content. From Instagram to Snapchat to Facebook (sort of), millennials’ social media, selfie-minded and swipe-happy ways have fueled a sea change in American mass media consumption. Not only do these tech-savvy Gen Y’ers (between roughly 21 and 39 years of age) spend more time than any generation consuming content, but these cord-cutters are also averse to traditional advertising methods and flagrant inauthenticity wherever it springs up, be it in their social feed or… life.
This has created a quandary of sorts for the content creators (freelancers, brands, producers, strategists and influencers) who endure great daily pains to figure out how to best connect with their target audience amid this crazy cultural metamorphosis.
With so much content out there, dwindling attention spans and non-stop jockeying to hook people for the millisecond they have them in a feed, I thought it would be beneficial to give you a direct line to those tasked with producing content for millennials on a daily basis. To that end, I asked four talented professionals who create (or have created) content at top millennial-targeted content destinations to share a quality piece of content that succeeded at targeting millennials.
Something they love. That resonates with them. Whether they worked on it, or not. My hope being that it would guide the content creators of the world to a more ambitious, aspirational place when targeting the millennial set. And not because it got 5M views, 10K shares or retweeted by a Kardashian and/or Jenner. Good because it engages, informs and maybe highlights a growing trend.
If it happened to get retweeted by Kylie in between selfies and starving, so be it.
To add structure, I added an “ideal” to strive for and extra color after each content example. I spent some time as a Managing Editor of Branded Editorial at Uproxx (a site with an audience of 40M millennials)… So it just seemed like the right thing to do.
Ideal #1 to strive for: An original voice, unique angle and real visuals
Who: Megan Gilbert, Executive Director of Strategy, Codeword
The content: How To Spend a Night: VICE Summer Guide
Why Megan chose this piece:
I was Creative Director/Editorial Director on this 8-city night guide for Vice last year. It worked for a millennial audience because it not only spoke to them in a voice they recognized and appreciated, but it provided utility and inspiration for a memorable night out (or 8!). The idea was to create a true connection point to actual millennials by turning the usual travel guide format on its head, providing a blueprint for off-the-grid night owls instead of your typical ’36 Hours In…’
To further connect with a highly visual audience that also responds to highly personalized content, we hired young photographers with strong aesthetics in local markets to create new images of familiar and strange locations. It was optimized for mobile, and socialized strategically. All in all, it was a win for readers, publisher, and brand alike.
City guides have existed since the Internet was a baby, so it’s worth giving props when the art form is re-conceived in a fresh way. This unfiltered snapshot of what your Instagram feed could look like for a night in [enter great American city here] not only bestows “off-the-grid night owls” with unconventional recommendations they might not get from Yelp, but also accomplishes one of the great feats of branded content — not allowing the “Presented By” to act as a barrier to entry.
That’s what happens when you fuse original photography with a fun POV and unconventional local recos, such as what to do in Miami from 3-6 a.m. (Hint: It involves watching “gators crawling on top of each other”). Ultimately, a great way to reward millennials for their time and curiosity.
Ideal #2 to strive for: Aspirational, but attainable
Who: Phoebe Hettel, Brand Strategist, Tastemade
The Content: Weekend Refresh
Why Phoebe chose this video series:
The millennial generation is constantly looking to be both entertained and inspired by the content they consume, all within a matter of minutes. Where I believe the differentiator lies in making content that matters to them, is making it action-oriented. Tastemade does a great job at making the aspirational attainable, giving audiences a way to take what they’ve seen and apply it to their own lives. The goal is to inspire action, and to do so by providing accessible solutions whether it’s through food, travel, or home and design.
Weekend Refresh is a home- and- design-focused original video series showcasing a room or home space being transformed within 48 hours or less. Millennials are now the largest generation of new homebuyers and renovators, and I think are often scared by large home projects because they are costly and time-consuming.
In this series, we provide viewers with creative solutions for redesigning and revamping their homes without having to knock down walls or spend a large amount of money. Weekend Refresh is a great representation of taking an aspirational subject and making it attainable, providing millennial audiences with the tools they need to take action in their lives.
Phoebe’s example is the perfect millennial cocktail, blending life-hack home improvement fixes and creative solutions into short-form videos demonstrating just how easy it can be to renovate a space in a short amount of time.
These bite-sized appetizers are perfectly prepared for millennials’ appetites for new experiences and actually one of the things that makes the Internet great in 2018: high-quality, social-media friendly videos that show everything from concocting ridiculously small donuts to the culinary exploits of the topless baker. Both interesting twists on cooking videos that show how far the “How To” video has really come.
Ideal #3 to strive for: Playing the nostalgia card
Who: Amy Boal, Director of Editorial, Ranker
The Content: “18 Incredibly Rare Pokémon Cards That Could Pay Off Your Student Loan Debt”
Photo: Typical Gamer/Twitter
Why Amy chose this piece:
Last fall, we published ’18 Incredibly Rare Pokémon Cards That Could Pay Off Your Student Loan Debt.’ The headline came from a new junior hire, and we didn’t change a word. It takes a straightforward concept (“The Most Valuable Pokemon Cards”), and hits millennials who once had the cards, right in their savings account, without going too far.
It also engages readers by using the Ranker voting format in a fun way, putting a crowd-ranked spin on a super nostalgic, but still relevant topic. It’s been a success on virtually all of our distribution platforms as well — standing out on social and in search results, pulling in 21x the 30-day traffic we were expecting.
Ranker, a crowd-ranked voting platform that “collects over 30 million monthly votes across thousands of pop culture lists,” is one of the Internet’s great time-killing sites. You can vote on everything from “The Things Millennials Are Killing, According To Olds” to “25 Things You Should Probably Stop Blaming on Millennials.” It’s a site that’s primarily by millennials, for millennials.
And when you add that to the fact that millennials probably hate student loan debt as much as they once loved Pokemon cards, you have a perfect storm-type opportunity (per Amy’s example) to connect a headline/hook never before conceived, to outperform all others.
Ideal #4 to strive for: Finding a relevant topic that hits home
Who: Nick Dimengo, Co-Founder and Chief Content Officer, Knew Money
The Content: “The Lessons I’ve Learned From Working Remotely”
Why Nick Chose This Piece:
As more and more people, especially millennials, try to find the perfect work-life balance and begin working remotely, I wanted to offer up a first-person take on how it can be successful. There are so many people my age who have never worked anywhere but an office, and deal with the same routine every single day, avoiding distractions while ‘on the clock.’ It’s probably why so many of those people tell me how they ‘could never work from home’ because of how much stimulation there is to take them away from work.
With that in mind, I listened to some of those people and wanted to paint a picture that shows how working remotely can be successful. It’s just a matter of some will power, finding the right routine for yourself and, most importantly, communicating with co-workers. More people are ditching the office (or trying to) to have more flexibility. Whether it’s fear or some other factor, I hope my article is able to show them that you can be just as successful and productive (if not more) once you understand how to work remotely.
I’ve worked from hotel lobbies in London, numerous coffee shops around New York City and Los Angeles, my parents’ couch in Nashville with the TV on and airplanes with spotty Internet, so there’s no reason why a person can’t be productive with work, without the cubicle walls and small talk with Cheryl in accounting.”
If you’re creating content for millennials, it’s important to nail down a topic that hits home. Given the increasing popularity of remote workforces, Nick (a former writer/editor for two other millennial-minded brands, BroBible and FHM) recently co-founded the financial-minded startup that couldn’t be better suited for millennials still reeling from the curveball thrown at them by the Great Recession. To that end, creating not just a piece of content — but entire content destination such as Knew Money — is a worthwhile gamble because it bestows wisdom and insight around finance-related topics that millennials face everyday.
In a world filled with attention-divided souls perpetually scrolling through feeds, you need to be fresh and on point with what you’re composing — The Beatles’ “White Album,” not white noise. It’s your best chance to engage an audience, add value and ultimately, harvest a degree of loyalty. And if you can do it in a way that hasn’t been done before, well, that’s even better…