Adult millennials in the US are the ones who put social media on the map. And, thanks to their heavy smartphone usage, they are in the vanguard of consumers now making social networking a largely mobile activity.
Many millennials use social networks as a resource when shopping, or simply to express their opinions about brands. But they mostly use social media to socialize—and don’t necessarily want to find brands addressing them there, according to a new eMarketer report, “Millennials and Social Media: Gauging How Facebook and Other Networks Fit in Their Lives.”
On social, millennials learn about products through peer activity. September 2014 polling by Annalect asked US smartphone-owning millennials to cite the main digital ways in which they discovered brands. Nearly half said they did so from “someone else following/‘liking’/pinning/tweeting info on social media.”
In addition, millennials make more general use of social media to research possible purchases. In an August 2014 survey of US 21-to-32-year-old internet users by The Monogram Group, 52% cited social sites among places where they gathered information about “new products or brands that interest you.” This ranked social sites behind friends/family (75%) but ahead of paid advertising (41%).
Millennials’ social engagement with brands often has a mercenary motive. When Annalect asked respondents why they shared digital content, 36% said they did so “to receive a coupon/discount/promotion.”
Although social media can be a resource for millennial shoppers, one should not overstate its role. When Annalect asked about expectations for ways a brand should use technology, well under half (39%) said it should “have a presence in social media.”
For now, what millennials see on social sites is just marginally influential in what they end up buying, at least by their own telling. In July 2014 polling by A.T. Kearney, fewer than one in 10 US millennial internet users said they frequently based purchase decisions on “what’s happening in my social network.” About three in 10 “only occasionally” did so.
Millennials who use social sites to transact purchases are the exception, according to August 2014 Harris Poll research for DigitasLBi. One-third of US millennials said they “would consider making a purchase on a social media site.” Just over one in 10 had bought that way.