Are Millennials Too Careless With Digital Privacy?

Over the last few weeks, I have focused on many different items regarding emerging media that range from interactions online, to the ability to access information anywhere through mobile devices, to a wide variety of ways technology is utilizing Internet and connected capabilities in order to create a more personalized, accessible world for consumers and the millennial generation. All of these posts discussed the ways marketers could reach this generation digitally, and thus collect a lot of data about individuals in the process both singularly and collectively. However, none of this addressed what I consider to be the big elephant in the room: digital privacy.

I care a great deal about my privacy. While I am active on several different social media websites, I have taken great effort to either not provide personal information or to protect that information through different platforms’ various privacy settings. I am careful about what information I post, and I take great care to make sure what others post about me is something I wish to be seen (which I obviously have much less control over).

However, to older generations, I would probably appear to be in the minority when it comes to millennials. A quick Google search about privacy related to the generation will provide a pretty negative article or two or three regarding millennials’ seemingly complete disregard of digital privacy.

Are we careless? Are we too optimistic? Or has growing up with the Internet and technology helped us to better understand how to protect ourselves, thus lowering our overall concern level?

Truthfully, the answer is probably some combination of the three.

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As the above chart reflecting results of a Gallop poll shows, when compared to other generations, millennials have more trust across the board when it comes to privacy and other institutions safeguarding that privacy. Some of those results do certainly seem to reflect a generation that is more optimistic than past generations.

However, having grown up around computers, and rapidly advancing technology, millennials have had a lot of experience with navigating a digital world that older generations cannot match. Sure, we have a lot more confidence in our Facebook privacy settings, but let’s not forget that millennials pioneered this platform. When Facebook started and was just for college students, we were mainly the generation (accounting for some nontraditional students) experimenting with it and learning about its potential.

The younger millennials might not have been the first users of the platform, but many of those individuals have never known a world without the Internet. They grew up with it. They experimented with it. They learned about it. Thus it should come as no surprise that many express great confidence in managing their online privacy. Millennials are not indifferent to privacy. Most of us are just already protecting it.

As our digital footprints continue to grow larger and larger, privacy will always remain a concern. Many might still argue that we are still not doing enough to protect ourselves and our private data, and that is a statement in which I truly agree. The onus should not be on brands to protect our data, but rather the onus should be on us to control the data to which brands have access. To some extent, it appears millennials are already doing this, but there are so many more ways in which we can improve.

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How In-Game Advertising Can Be an Effective Way to Reach Millennials

I love video games, and have loved them from a very young age (given that I have previously expressed love for The Oregon Trail and Nintendo in separate posts, this likely comes as no surprise). The first Christmas present that I remember receiving was the original Nintendo when I was only four. Since that time, there have been quite a few different games over the years where the stats have shown that I have taken over 100 hours to complete a game, and each time a part of me cringes realizing how much of my life was gone only on one game. I shudder to think of the full amount of lifetime hours I have spent on gaming, but at the same time, it has provided me with a lifetime of entertainment and humor, and in recent years I have also been on the receiving end of some of the best storytelling in any entertainment industry (and I do not give such praise lightly).

In this respect, I am like many millennials. 57 percent of my generation claims to play video games at least three times a week, and despite working two jobs, finishing up a Master’s degree, and planning a wedding, this somehow has held true for me as well (most weeks, anyway). I play across a variety of different platforms, including several gaming systems, my computer, and my mobile phone. And speaking of mobile gaming, it should come as no surprise that millennials also lead the way in this category.

This leads to yet another medium in which brands may be able to reach this generation: in-game advertising. While it is not uncommon for brands to advertise in console games (one example would be Tostino’s advertising within the WWE 2K16 game as in the below image), I will instead take a brief look at in-game advertising within mobile games. This generally consists of the ads that play either when the app is opened or sometime during a break in gameplay.

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There are over 160 million mobile phone gamers in the United States, so this adds up to a lot of overall opportunity. Plus, gamers tend to be more engaged and receptive of ads on mobile, so when executed properly, this can be a very effective strategy as well. I know that I personally do not mind the ads on mobile, as they offer a brief reprieve in-between levels or puzzles (I tend to prefer the latter on mobile), and the most obnoxious ads tend to be skippable after a few seconds.

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How effective are these ads? About two-thirds of gamers have visited advertisers’ websites after viewing a mobile game advertisement. These are impressive results for advertisers who might have trouble otherwise driving traffic to their own digital channels.  These results are also the reason that nearly 50% of all digital video advertising is expected to be delivered via mobile by the year 2019.

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I have to admit that my personal experience with these mobile ads has not been as positive, but then again, most of the ads I seem to be shown are for other game applications. Still, there have been a few movie trailers that have played that have raised my excitement to see them. To me, this is an odd finding because I generally ignore video advertisements that play on Hulu Plus or try and skip past the pre-roll ads on YouTube, yet when it comes to mobile phone applications, for some reason I have more attention.

This is clearly opportunity for advertisers of all industries. As I am part of a generation that tends to ignore, skip, or find a way to avoid advertising, it is pretty remarkable to find a medium in which advertising seems to work quite well. And given all the spending expected to occur by 2019, it is clear that marketers are also beginning to understand ways to reach this millennial generation.

Mobile Video Consumption Continues to Grow Among Millennial Audiences

As an avid film buff, I have a firmly held belief that one should watch a film on as large a screen as possible (while obviously maintaining picture integrity). Many filmmakers pack a lot of visual information into each frame, and as the screen gets smaller it becomes more and more difficult to fully grasp the filmmaker’s vision. This is one reason why I personally invested in an HD projector. This allows me to watch all video (meaning video beyond film or television) on a significantly large screen.

Despite this preference of giant screens for videos, as a marketer I recognize that this is an unrealistic expectation for consumers in today’s digital world. Consumers of all ages are going to watch or interact with video across a wide array of devices with a wide array of screen sizes. Mobile video consumption is particularly great for the millennial generation with around 60% claiming to watch videos on their smartphones, an amount that continues to grow year over year.

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Perhaps an even more impressive note for marketers is that millennials also tend to be very engaged with mobile video. While most in this generation tend to multitask while watching television, for example, more than half of millennials claim to focus entirely on mobile video without performing any other activities. Watching video is great, but that level of attention for this generation showcases the potential in mobile video.

Home Depot is a brand that uses video optimized for mobile devices very well. Many millennials are of the age where they are either recent or soon-to-be homebuyers, but more importantly they have shown an affinity for home do-it-yourself (DIY) projects. Project ideas and tutorials are a great fit for video as a visual medium. Home Depot recognized this through data that showed that individuals were more likely to use mobile video than desktops for certain home-remodeling projects. This makes logical sense – the mobility aspect allows individuals to view the videos wherever they are rather than continuously return to another room to view the video. Keeping mobile in mind, Home Depot has released hundreds of DIY videos that have totaled over 43 million views on YouTube.

Another brand doing a great job with mobile video is Adidas. Adidas has been creating video optimized for mobile devices for some time, and these videos tend to have an artistic flair to them that might make them qualify more as short films than ads. Adidas is utilizing the technology and playing off of culturally relevant themes, and it’s helped them ‘energize’ their younger audience.

Adidas also has helped pioneer a lot of “modern” mobile video technology (as opposed to the now “ancient” mobile video technology that existed back when the iPhone first debuted in 2007). Adidas partnered with Unruly back in 2014 to launch a service that allowed advertisers to scale their video appropriately for mobile delivery anywhere on the web.

Many other brands have already started work on their mobile video campaigns, and it should only help this brand continue to reach my generation as we continue to value the concept of mobility and consumption wherever we are, rather than simply at home or on a computer.

Virtual Reality and Cause Marketing: An Effective Combination

I have always had an active imagination. In second grade, I gave my teacher a very memorable excuse for not completing my homework assignment: I was stuck working in the coal mines with my father all weekend. While not yet fully grasping the advent of child labor laws was my downfall in that particular instance, my imaginative mind was never in question.

This active imagination helped create an affinity for science fiction, and perhaps nothing took firmer hold of my attention than the concept of virtual reality. The concept of being able to explore any world, reality, or space allowed for limitless possibilities. However…it always seemed to remain science fiction. Any real attempts at a virtual reality device never took hold, and while Nintendo (my first loved brand) attempted to make my 11th birthday a special one by releasing the Virtual Boy the same day, it was not at all what virtual reality promised it would be. These red and black graphics simply did not do the trick:

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Fast forward to about 15 years later, and true virtual reality appeared to be no more on the horizon than flying cars were supposed to be. That is around the time when I first heard of the Oculus Rift, the latest virtual reality headset in development that promised to truly bring virtual reality to the market. About 20 years of virtual reality disappointments had caused me to remain cynical regarding its release to the public, but that cynicism was firmly put to rest with the release of the Samsung Gear VR.

The Samsung Gear VR line of headsets uses Oculus technology and allows users to hook up their Samsung cell phones with the device to be able to view videos and play games in a completely 360 degree world. It is a pretty incredible experience, and my long-held desires for true virtual reality feel somewhat satiated.

When it comes to virtual reality headsets, it should come as no surprise that millennials are leading the way when it comes to desire for owning virtual reality devices. Eight percent of millennials plan on purchasing a VR device this year, and that number will undoubtedly increase should the technology remain supported.

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As millennials remain the generation most likely to adopt new technologies, these new technologies remain opportunities for marketers to reach the generation. One successful method that has started to emerge is cause marketing. Millennials are known to engage and participate in various social causes, and to market in this manner through new technologies seems like a winning formula.

I used to work for AT&T, and while there are many aspects of that brand that I do not like, I have always been a big proponent of their campaigns to curtail texting and driving. This is a cause that is hugely important because of the dangers distracted drivers pose to themselves and their surroundings, and it is a cause in which it is very fitting for a cellular carrier to participate.

As part of AT&T’s ‘It Can Wait’ campaign to raise awareness of those dangers, they created an excellent 360 degree simulation of the dangers that could arise by being distracted by text messages. It is intended for individuals with a Gear VR or other virtual reality headset, but can also be viewed pretty well on a mobile phone (I would suggest something other than viewing it on a laptop/desktop for sure):

On one hand, this provides a very useful video as a teaching tool, but the reality is that the brand has left a memorable impression on those that view the simulation as well. For millennials, this involvement with a cause that has likely impacted quite a few of us can be extra beneficial for AT&T.

Perhaps an even better example of a great use of virtual reality would be Charity: Water’s short video experience entitled The Source. Charity: Water got a group of 400 individuals to meet at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York to take a “trip to a small village in Ethiopia.” Instead of plane tickets, the individuals were given a Samsung Gear VR and were shown The Source, a roughly 10-minute video that documented a week in the life of an Ethiopian teenager (once again, the video is not recommended to be viewed on a desktop/laptop):

Individuals at the fundraising event were deeply impacted by the video, with the filmmaker even noting that one “could hear a pin drop” while they all shared the experience. Individuals shared with each other when to turn around and view aspects of the video that were behind them, and overall were very engaged with the medium. By the end of the night, donors committed over $2.4 million to the charity which is an amount that far exceeded the expectations of Charity: Water.

While the ages of those in attendance were not noted in the previous article, it showcases the power of the medium when related to social and charitable causes. And if brands can adopt these technologies and get behind social causes, they are very likely to be able to find us millennials as willing listeners.

Snapchat’s Rumored Augmented Reality Device and a Discussion on Wearables

This past week provided some interesting speculation within the tech industry. Snapchat, a popular social media tool among the younger generations, has been known to be experimenting with augmented reality for a while, but they have also recently joined the Bluetooth Special Interest Group which has given some credence to recent speculation that Snapchat may be working on an augmented reality headset ala Google Glass.

If this really is Snapchat’s plan, it will be interesting to see how successful they are with this endeavor. A Forbes article from earlier this year notes that us millennials lead the pack when it comes to the adoption of wearable technology. 48% of wearable technology owners are between the ages of 18 and 34, and 71% of those in the 16-24 age category have a desire to own wearable technology.

Snapchat clearly has its finger on the pulse of this generation (see chart below), so it seems like an appropriate fit.  However, as the poor sales of the Amazon Fire Phone and HTC’s “Facebook Phone” have proven in the past, it takes more than just mixing a popular technology with a popular brand to create success. Snapchat is going to have to do more than just understand the young generations. They are going to have to understand what the young generations want in a wearable device.

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Wearable technology may be one of the prime categories among the Internet of Things, and it is certainly one of the easiest categories to adopt due to the general affordability of the products. Plus, some of the coolest technology advancements are happening in this wearable category. When the Fitbit came out, it seemed like a pretty cool extension of technology into the fitness world. Now, devices like Google Glass could literally change the way we view the world.

All of this excitement around the rapid advancement of technology opens up many doors that have never before been opened by marketers. Even a decade ago, marketers may have had a tremendously difficult time forecasting the ability to market to individuals in real-time wherever they were. Now the reality is that this is something that brands are starting to work into their integrated campaigns, and this opportunity should only continue to grow.

In order to be able to reach us in this particular digital space, brands are going to really need to make sure the interactions feel organic. Augmented reality allows for a multitude of offers, but if a brand were to think an audience wants to see a virtual billboard advertising a sale, they are completely missing the boat. It needs to connect with us in a way that is unique and something that fits the use of the space.

One example of this that I love is Lowe’s Holoroom which combines the technology of the Occulus VR headsets with kitchen and bathroom remodeling. This is a perfect branded use of wearables. It allows those redesigning their kitchen or bathroom to actually get visual ideas of how their space would look after home-remodeling projects. Customers no longer have to imagine what their projects might look like as they can experience the remodel through the use of wearable technology. This gives the customers extra piece of mind without the worry of hating the finished result of their project, and it also connect them with Lowe’s in a way that is unique, fun, and positive for all parties involved.

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There is definitely a future for the utilization of wearable technology in marketing, or perhaps in Internet brands like Snapchat, Facebook, and Amazon figuring out the hardware piece of the puzzle. As long as it exists and millennials keep adopting it, wearable technology should remain an excellent way to figure out how to communicate with my demographic.

Nostalgia Marketing and the Crystal Pepsi Trail

There are a couple of unfortunate trends occurring within the millennial generation. Over the past few years, multiple studies are finding that millennials are more depressed than previous generations and are also suffering anxiety at a higher rate than previous generations as well. Many point to the economic recession that occurred in 2008 as a main reason for this, but the truth is the sociopolitical climate has been tense ever since that time (and aligning with the beginning of President Obama’s administration) and millennials have taken a great interest in social and political issues.

However, this overall state of a jaded, stressed, and saddened generation has allowed for a particular genre of marketing that has become a big hit with us millennials, and that is nostalgia marketing. Nostalgia marketing helps an audience relive happier moments from the past (and with our generation being so young, this often times means our childhood) by bringing back previous products or beloved icons from that time. Even in our digital spaces, millennials are hit with so many digital display ads on so many different platforms that it tends to create an impersonal relationship with these brands that might never repair. Nostalgia marketing, on the other hand, allows brands to make an emotional appeal that resonates deeply (and has worked especially well with millennials) and helps make a brand appear more as a friend reliving good times.

This past week, my college coursework has focused primarily on the innovation of Coca-Cola in the marketing realm, but this has also led to a few observations of their closest competitor in the soda industry, Pepsi. One of the more notable things Pepsi has done in 2016 is to bring back their short-lived Crystal Pepsi drink from the early 1990s.

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One of my good friends and I have been waiting for this day for many, many years. I was only 8 when the beverage was first released, and truthfully I do not remember greatly preferring it to regular Pepsi. Many younger millennials won’t remember the drink at all (since it had such a short shelf life), and you can see a video of them trying the beverage for the first time here. Still, the thought of a beverage from our childhood making a comeback in our adult lives was always something of a dream until Pepsi brought back the drink this year.

While Crystal Pepsi is itself a great example of nostalgia marketing, it is how Pepsi has utilized emerging media and nostalgia marketing to promote its return that has fully captured my attention. I was beginning the third grade in 1992 when Crystal Pepsi was originally on shelves, and my classmates and I practically lived for the day when we would get to go back to the class computer (a tiny box with poor colors and far more limited capabilities than today’s computers), and spend some time playing the computer games. The most popular game of that time period and our class was The Oregon Trail, a game in which the users tried to help their wagon filled with people navigate the trail and arrive without losing passengers to a variety of 19th century diseases and troubles. It was a simple concept that happened to completely captivate our 3rd grade minds.

So what’s one way Pepsi has marketed the return of Crystal Pepsi to shelves? By making their own branded game called The Crystal Pepsi Trail. It utilizes the familiar Oregon Trail gameplay concepts and graphics to warp the user back to the early 1990s as they attempt to find and restore the fictional Crystal Pepsi Fountain back to its former glory. Instead of stopping off the trail to hunt bears, deer, and other wild animals for food, users now hunt what appear to be runaway shopping carts in search of food items like Pepsi beverages and Cheetos’ long-discontinued Cheetos Paws snacks (and Cheetos, while we’re on the topic of nostalgia marketing…). Instead of the necessity of carrying along medicine, clothing, and trading supplies as in the original Oregon Trail game, travelers on the Crystal Pepsi trail carry along floppy disks, fanny packs, and need to worry about their Tamagotchi pets dying. You might not lose a companion to dysentery anymore, but you could very well lose them in the mall. It is a fun, humorous look back into the 1990s that perfectly coincides with the return of Crystal Pepsi.

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Pepsi has done such a wonderful job with this campaign. It is very simple by design (early 1990s video games could not be near as complex as today’s games), but it speaks directly to my generation as those kids that endlessly played this game, and we make for a great audience overall for the return of a 1990s soft drink as well. Most importantly, though, Pepsi did not promote the return of Crystal Pepsi with annoying banner ads that never cut through the clutter, but rather with a digital campaign that allowed us to do what we already like to do: play computer games and reminisce. All I need now is to find some old early 1990s NickToons to complete my return for a day to my childhood circa 1992.

As I see it, there is only one problem with the Crystal Pepsi Trail. I am just as bad at it as I was with the original Oregon Trail game. Whether I die of a snakebite or slow dialup speeds, I still can’t seem to make it to the end of a trail.

The McChicken and Real-Time Marketing

As a 49ers fan, it was a Super Bowl I personally try to forget, but Super Bowl XLVII provided an example (and perhaps the first memorable example) of one of the great marketing techniques of the 21st century. Best of all, it didn’t cost the brand $4 million like television ads would have (though the brand had already purchased an ad as well).

Super Bowl XLVII might be best remembered as the Super Bowl when the lights went out in the Super Dome midway through the third quarter. The game was delayed for over half an hour, but one brand made a very memorable moment online. Nabisco’s Oreo brand posted a tweet with text that read “Power out? No problem,” along with an image that stated, “You can still dunk in the dark.” With that one simple tweet that was re-tweeted more than 16,000 times during the game, Oreo had both made a lasting marketing impression and helped popularize real-time marketing through social media.

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Since that time, many brands have taken advantage of posting relevant messages on social media accounts during popular sporting events, or other social and culturally-relevant posts. This is a very effective way to communicate with a digital audience, as it allows the audience to communicate back to the brand and thus creates a conversation between brand and consumer that can yield very positive results, especially since it is a public conversation that can be viewed by many.

Capitalizing on social media trends, or trying to create social media trends with branded content can thus be very useful to brands. As such, it is not very surprising to see a branded item or two trend on social media websites. So when I noticed #McChicken was trending on Facebook earlier this afternoon, I thought it was nothing more than a marketing choice made by McDonald’s. Over the weekend, I had already begun working on a McDonald’s-related topic for a school assignment, so I did something I normally do not do – I clicked on the trending topic (one I assumed was just promoted content) to see exactly what the marketing activity was.

I discovered I was very wrong. This was no marketing ploy (I mean…I sincerely HOPE it was not a marketing ploy). The Internet community was reacting to a video of a man and his McChicken, in which the man chose to…erm…well, to put it politely, he had chosen to fornicate with his McChicken.

Needless to say, the Internet leapt at the chance to comically express its disgust with the video, and this created some mild entertainment by reading through hundreds of comments, videos, and memes. While none of it had anything to do with the McChicken outside of the act committed to one in the video, the McChicken nonetheless received attention like no other fast food meal item on this particular day.

Yet notably absent from the conversation was McDonald’s. Neither the Facebook or Twitter social media accounts (the more notable locations the McChicken trended) mention the McChicken in any way. Perhaps this is due to the McChicken trending for some rather unsavory reasons, sure, but does a brand really want to let THAT conversation carry on with a life of its own?

This probably wasn’t the time for a cool, clever response laced with Internet-snark like many brands might do for a more tame social media trend, as that might leave a lasting McChicken-impression that the Internet won’t soon (or ever) forget. Maybe McDonald’s plans on letting the trend die out before they return with a McChicken-saving plan to recapture those that were turned off by the video.

In any case, this example illustrates that in our digital age, a brand is not in control of every conversation.  McDonald’s had nothing to do with the McChicken trending, and while to have that happen organically would normally be a brand’s dream, this likely registered more as a nightmare for McDonald’s.

Still, today the Internet talked an awful lot about the McChicken. If a brand can capitalize on the general ideas (ignore the video itself) behind what helped this particular incident go viral, they could really learn how to speak to many of us in our digital space.

Emerging Media and How it Relates to Reaching Me and other Millennials in Our Digital Space

I am a millennial.

I have spent a lifetime trying desperately to avoid labels that sought to group me into neatly defined categories used to describe millions of other individuals because I have always felt I was a complex individual that one term could not begin to accurately describe. Rather than fit in to any social, political, or religious groups, I sought to form my own opinions and beliefs and ultimately exist as an individual capable of unique thought.

Yet, despite an early effort to distance myself from the term, I have come to grips with the fact that I am undoubtedly a millennial. Aside from having a birthday that fits in neatly with the years used to define the generation, I am inevitably drawn to technology (the newer the better!), socialize frequently in digital spaces (and need said digital spaces available at a moment’s notice), and have a strong set of social values of which I refuse to compromise. While I can try as much as I want to avoid the term “millennial”, the aforementioned traits all fit in neatly with the typical depictions of the generation.

So, whether I like it or not, I am a millennial. And as an aspiring marketer, I can recognize the difficulties with trying to reach an audience of individuals just like me.

Like many others in my generation I have cut the proverbial cable cord, opting instead to consume television programming via a sort of à la carte-style programming in which I choose shows to watch on a streaming network such as Netflix or Hulu Plus without subscribing to literally hundreds of channels I would never watch via cable or satellite service. Streaming music via Spotify allows me access to thousands of songs without having to listen to repetitive radio programming. The Internet allows me all the access to news and entertainment articles I could ever possibly read without having to pay for any sort of print subscription. Even better, with the rapidly advancing technology found in mobile phones, I can do all of this from my fingertips with my smartphone.

So, for those marketers out there seeking to include me in their target audiences, they are going to need to reach me in my digital space.

This is where understanding how to utilizing emerging media as part of the marketing mix is incredibly important. In 2016, millennials have finally begun to outnumber baby boomers and have become the largest generation in the United States. For any business to survive, digital marketing is now a must, and not just to reach millennials like me. More than 80% of those under 64 are now connecting to the Internet:

http://www.pewinternet.org/chart/young-adults-are-most-likely-to-use-the-internet-but-seniors-show-faster-adoption-rates/iframe/

More impressive, 73% of the population accesses the Internet at least daily:

Three-quarters of Americans go online at least daily

This is likely not shocking information to anyone, but in a sense it sets the tone for a discussion about emerging media, as it is impossible to hold that discussion without the Internet. Knowing that 73% of the population accesses the Internet daily is only a pice of the puzzle, however.

It used to be a bit simpler. A home computer was once needed to connect to the Internet, but consumers today utilize all sorts of devices to stay connected. We millennials like our gadgets, and as such the market has provided us with ways to utilize smartphones and tablets, and even now wearable gadgets like watches, bracelets, and eyewear to access the Internet. These separate devices all come with their own intricacies, but a clever marketer can utilize any of these devices to their advantage to reach us while we use these devices. More importantly, a clever marketer will find ways to use these technologies and hold a conversation with us.

This is where social media can, and should, play a major role. Social media has exploded over the last decade, and it use has been widely adopted by most generations, and heavily by us millennials. The variety of platforms to utilize, including Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, Instagram, Pinterest, Snapchat, and countless others, has allowed for a variety of methods to carry out a conversation online, and marketers should absolutely use this to their advantage, especially since many can access their favorite social media networks anywhere they go. There is an average of 12 new mobile social media accounts that are created every second, which represents a staggering technological reach.

All of this only begins to scratch the surface of emerging media, especially considering that technology keeps advancing at a rapid pace. Recent technological trends that millennials such as myself will continuously adopt these new technologies, so each new connected device represents an opportunity to further a marketing conversation.

In the coming weeks and months, I will continue a discussion of emerging media and how they can be, and are best being utilized by brands to market to their audiences, and specifically how such a “difficult” consumer such as myself can be reached in a digital space.