What qualities do you think of when you hear the word “millennial?” There’s a pretty high chance you will hear one of the following words:
- “Google it”
…and the list goes on, and on. But one thing that almost everyone can agree on is that Millennials are essentially the foundation of this digital revolution, the Age of Social Media.
One of the strongest characteristics that everyone notices instantly about millennials is they’re constantly on their phone (just try typing “millennials” in Google > Images and see what you get) — whether it’s walking down the street (and almost getting killed), at the dinner table, during university lecture, during TV commercials, etc. They “LITERALLY WILL DIE” without their phone, they might tell you. You can find them sneaking into coffee shops just to use the outlets to charge their phone, tablet, laptop, or even all three at once! But of course, they would only go to a coffee shop that offers free WiFi because what kind of evil establishment would go so far to make us use our own (parent-paying) data?!
A common question that Millennial parents/older siblings will ask is, “What the hell is so important that you need to be on your phone at the dinner table?!” The answers to this question are unique depending on the person, however, these answers will almost always fall short of so important in the eyes of those who are asking. You may hear something like, “this is prime posting time. I need to finish this Instagram edit before it gets too late” or “I literally can’t believe she posted this picture of me! How could she without asking!” or “I don’t know what to say to this girl in her DM’s. She’s so hot but I think I can get her.” Whether you find this disturbing or pathetic or even hilarious, these are all true statements I have heard myself within the past year or two.
I know what you’re thinking, “Yo, aren’t you like 25? Aren’t you working in Social Media and the exact definition of a freaking Millennial?” Hell yeah I am. I have no shame being lumped into this category – I am as “Millennial” as they come. In fact, I find it completely fascinating to observe the dependent obsession we have (including myself) with our social media accounts. Imagine if someone wiped away ALL your access to Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat for 1 full month? 30 days – could you do it?
The big surge in social media started in the mid 2000’s — first with Facebook, then Twitter, Instagram, and Snapchat. If I could name “The Big Four,” those platforms would be it. Of course we also have YouTube, Google+, LinkedIn, Periscope, etc. But those platforms don’t gain nearly as much media attention and usage by Millennials [especially] as the prior four either because they are too difficult to use, too newly introduced into the market, etc. Vine would probably be a close fifth with YouTube, but we just saw that one slip down the drain earlier this fall.
Here we are at the end of 2016 and the two platforms most used by Millennials and called to be their ‘favorite’ platform has been Instagram and Snapchat (based of my observations, research, and focus groups). The one thing that separates these two platforms from Twitter and Facebook is that there is way less wording and “mess” within these platforms. With Instagram, millennials rather look at an aesthetic picture ‘worth a thousand words’ rather than actually reading them on Facebook or Twitter. While both Facebook and Twitter have the ability to add photos/videos, it is not their main selling point so to say. One of the best examples of the differentiation in these platforms includes donuts. Donuts? Yes, donuts.
Facebook: I like Donuts. (main topic)
Twitter: I’m eating a Donut. (current status what you’re doing about/with donuts)
Snapchat: HERE I am eating a Donut. (live display of your relationship with the donut)
Instagram: Here is a photo of my Donut. (artistic/creative/aesthetically pleasing picture of donut [and you])
Kind of understand it better now? But one differing trait to also observe about Snapchat and Instagram is how they are mainly physical displays of your life rather than written explanations. Most people are more intrigued when it comes to visual displays rather than written or oral displays. Most people are visual learners, and would rather intake information through a series of pictures rather than flipping through pages of a book. This is also why so many news sites add an image to their main Hero story on their homepage (to attract the most attention), or why their links to articles are now Slideshows rather than blog posts. Colors, perspective, sharpness, brightness, saturation — and many more elements of a photo — are all very aesthetically pleasing to the eye, and therefore more interesting for the consumer.
Combining a few things from this discussion, we can now come to the correlation that Millennials like IG/SP because Millennials = lazy/hipsters (remember the key words up top) and Instagram/Snapchat = easy to use/aesthetically pleasing. Feel free to read the Urban Dictionary definition of hipsters here, but most people in the 21st century usually associate hipsters as current 20-30 year olds with rebellious attitudes toward mainstream art, fashion, and trends. Their independent form of thinking creates a unique and creative perspective to life, which is most efficiently created through Instagram’s lens. Since Facebook was the first and [remains to be] the largest social media platform, you can even go as far as stating that Facebook is too ‘mainstream’ for Millennials. I mean, seriously, our parents are now using Facebook, we must escape this intrusion immediately (cue dramatic screaming and eye rolls)!
Before anyone gets offended here, I am making the disclaimer that none of this should be generalized – i.e. – not ALL Millennials are hipsters or lazy or even like Starbucks. I myself am told to ‘slow down’ many times from my parents, as I have adapted the workaholic mindset at a young age from my father, working all throughout college, and maintaining a part-time job and babysitting job outside my full-time job ever since I graduated. Also, I prefer Dunkin’ Donuts to Starbucks.
Yet, for the most part, I have come to see the growth of Instagram and Snapchat to be pretty phenomenal. I am actually quite interested to see if another platform can take the lead above these two. So far, we have had many new social media apps such as Periscope, Tumblr, Meetup, etc, but none of them have surpassed the powerful and constant growth as these two. I am eager to see new features and advancements as well from these platforms. I have been exceedingly impressed by what Snapchat has accomplished and added in the past year with their addition of more geo-filters, face-over features, and working more with various business/brands/influencers. What are your thoughts? Which is your favorite #socialmedia platform and why?
XOX – Kelcey