Six reasons why Millennials aren't the social gurus you think they are

Social ADD, oversharing, and a lack of social etiquette, to name a few.

It’s a good bet that one of the first words that pops into most peoples’ heads when they hear "Millennial" is "social media."

While Millennials may be the "social generation," that does not mean that they are inherently corporate social geniuses. Maintaining personal accounts is very different from curating business social accounts. Many companies hire Millennials presuming that they’ll be a silver bullet for their social branding struggles; however, that’s not always the case. Here are a few areas where Millennials may need social education:

Social ADD
First of all, a lot of Millennials have something I like to call social ADD. Most Millennials use more than one social platform; they whimsically jump from Twitter to Instagram and then onto Snapchat, and while that’s fine for personal social use, it does not translate well to business. Corporate use of social media needs to be calculated and well executed. Simply joining an account because it’s the "next big thing" without a plan isn’t advisable, nor will it benefit your business. A social strategy is always needed, so make sure you know who your target audience is for each channel so you can tailor content accordingly.

Cohesive platform integration
Speaking of content, a lack of social integration can be just as detrimental to a strong corporate social strategy as erratically jumping from account to account. Many businesses incorporate as many platforms as possible to connect with all of their consumers, but Millennials can struggle with successfully integrating various social networks to create connected campaigns over multiple platforms and differentiating the content needed for each. Visual networks such as Instagram and YouTube are effective foundations for advertising campaigns that attract consumers while more substantive networks such as LinkedIn are important for connecting with and informing influencers. Meanwhile, Twitter remains a fundamental component of the most agile and effective social CRM strategies. Millennials are adept at understanding how different sites appeal to different audiences. However, they tend to lack the marketing and customer relationship management expertise to pull various social platforms and their audiences together into one well-developed social strategy.

Brand voice on social
Millennials can also struggle to fully grasp brand voice. While creating pithy social content may seem like second nature to many of them, they frequently struggle to develop a cohesive global brand voice. Companies need to ensure that their voice is coming though successfully on social, and it takes a seasoned and educated brand team to develop voice both on and off social. Social voice needs to be informal but also informative, and most importantly in line with the company’s goals and values.

Social for internal communications
Perhaps because Millennials grew up in an era when social was primarily used to pass time and connect with friends, they haven’t quite grasped how to use social to save time. Internal communication social platforms can be immensely beneficial to businesses by expediting internal operations and preventing endless email chains. Many Millennials struggle with the paradigm shift of using tools like Facebook and Twitter to save time as opposed to waste it. It’s essential that Millennials learn how to use social to help internal teams move with greater fluidity and ease to decrease to maximize their productivity.

Too much information
Millennials are inclined to overshare, and oversharing is a huge no-no for businesses when it comes to social media. Creating a voice is integral to developing a successful social program, but sharing too much can be a detriment your brand image. Knowing when to post and how often to post is also essential to successful enterprise social media management. Followers get post-fatigue when their favorite brands are constantly updating. Monitoring feedback from followers and optimizing analytics is key to tailoring an appropriate posting cadence. 

Social etiquette
Not surprisingly, Millennials struggle with keeping their personal social accounts private and separate from their professional life. They sometimes develop an attitude towards social that is almost entitled in nature – they think it’s merely a way for them to share whatever they want, whenever they want – without any repercussions. As recent college graduates, Millennials are frequently in the habit of posting social content on their personal accounts that may be inappropriate for the office. Millennials often don’t fully recognize that they will be held accountable for their actions on social, and that there are consequences as severe as possible termination if inappropriate social content is posted publicly.

Don’t get me wrong; Millennials are still the social generation. They tend to have an unparalleled ability to nimbly pick up on new social platforms and trends. However, organizations would be wise to not mistake that natural ability for expertise and invest in social media education for their younger hires to ensure they don’t experience any of these pitfalls.

William Ward is director of education strategy at Hootsuite and a professor at Syracuse University.

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