THE BLOG
05/29/2013 12:36 pm ET | Updated Jul 29, 2013

Engaging With Millennial Customers Through Social Media

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There's been a ton of buzz in the media lately about the "Me, Me, Me Generation" of millennials. Tagged as being the most connected, they're using their constant, real-time plug-in to technology to engage in an impressive social, global citizenship that, sense-of-entitlement be damned, we might want to pay attention to.

The far-reaching connection through an array of social-media platforms has impressive consequences -- allowing people both young and old to carry an impact like never before. Outside of revolutionizing movements like the Arab Spring, it enables a teenager in California to prevent the suicide of a New Jersey girl she's never met outside of following her Tumblr account, or highlights the incredible generosity of a community willing to open their homes to help strangers after a terrorist attack. The seemingly limitless connection is also the catalyst behind Instagram accounts that exist solely to feature a user's every meal or the ridiculous number of "selfies" taken by teenagers documenting their daily living. What do we make of this?

Businesses have long been trying to determine the best way to market themselves through the growing number of social media outlets, and this has become even more important as a growing number of people flock to sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Tumblr, including large demographics of older users. Many of the college-students who grew up using Facebook during its inception are now adults in their thirties with kids of their own, and they're connected not only to the younger generation but to older generations as well, encouraging their parents and grandparents to stay involved and informed by creating social media accounts of their own.

One drawback of this hyper-connectivity, particularly for younger users, is an avoidance of more traditional forms of communication. Who wants to waste twenty minutes on small talk and pleasantries over the phone when an efficient two-line text will do the trick? While this line of thinking can be helpful and productive in some cases, it's also shifted the way many younger people interact with their communities on a daily basis. Talking to people is a learned skill. Not the kind of "talking" we do when we're sending a pithy zinger in 140 characters on Twitter, and not the kind of "talking" we do when we spend thirty minutes typing out a careful, well-argued, page-long comment in response to someone's political Facebook post. As people, especially millennials, plug-in, they gain access to a type of unplugging from their immediate, physical environment -- they have a permanent touch-screen buffer. Businesses with an eye for new marketing trends are taking note, but so too should those concerned with customer service.

An article at Parature reports that millennials seek out a wide breadth of customer-service channels (NICE) and many of them expect customer support or feedback within just twelve hours (Nielsen). Perhaps most importantly, more than 65 percent or more of the younger (16- to 34-year-old) customer demographics seek out solutions to problems online before opting to engage with a business by phone or in person. Included among the most common digital media platforms were live chats/virtual assistants, text messaging, smartphone apps, and social media (NICE). This means that it may not matter how much social capital you gain with your vivacious personality or winning smile -- because if your customers aren't engaging with you in person, those skills aren't doing you much good.

Every customer is valuable, and to ensure that each voice is heard, businesses should embrace myriad forms of technology to make sure all demographics have access to leave feedback (and receive a response to that feedback) in a meaningful way. Due to the rapid, far-reaching extension of our current technology, it grows ever important to ensure that customers (especially dissatisfied ones) are being reached before a complaint goes viral.

Luckily, many new platforms are reaching out to fill this gap, creating customer-service support applications that better enable businesses to interact with their clientele quickly, easily, and digitally. Most notably among these are CriticMania, HelpJuice, and Zendesk. By adapting to new technology and staying connected, businesses help guarantee that every customer feels valued and remains a part of their client base, whether it's in person or hundreds of miles away.