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Joining Social Conversations: Advice Straight From a Millennial’s Mouth

Posted 23 June 2015 9:00 AM by Bridget Szuminsky

When I scroll through my social news feeds, I’m expecting to engage with authentic, in-the-moment conversations. If a brand advertisement or brand post feels out of place (as they, sadly, so often do), I just keep scrolling. I’m looking for a story that tells me why I should care about a brand, not just a photo of merchandise. Or better yet, something that shows me that the brand cares about what I care about. And with 89% of millennials being more likely to buy from brands that support causes we care about, I’m not alone. We are a value-driven generation and expect brands to be the same.

Sparking a Conversation

Eleven years ago, Dove set out to rebrand itself with its now-famous “Campaign for Real Beauty.” Instead of directly selling a bar of soap, Dove decided to start a conversation. The personal care brand launched its campaign in September of 2004 with digital billboards that asked consumers to go to a website to vote on what adjective best described a group of women with varying ages, ethnicities and body types:

“Grey or gorgeous?”

“Fit or fat?”

“Withered or wonderful?”

Even though body image was already a key topic due to the ongoing rise of eating disorders, Dove was the first brand to actually confront — and attempt to change — the beauty standard shown in advertising. The campaign’s website received more than 1.5 million visitors while the billboards were live.

Continuing the Conversation

While the core message of the “Campaign for Real Beauty” stays the same, Dove’s story continues to evolve with the changing marketing — and now social — landscape. Its Instagram channel shares motivational messages in a manner that its target audience is accustomed to seeing. Dove products are only shown in images where they naturally fit into conversation, which ensures the content is authentic and engaging.

This year, Dove is asking women to start a trend with #SpeakBeautiful on Twitter. It’s using the importance of trending (and paid) hashtags to let followers know that the brand is still fighting the beauty battle alongside them.

"We believe that conversation leads to brand love, and brand love leads to brand loyalty," shared Jennifer Bremner, brand director of skin cleansing at Dove’s parent company, Unilever, in an interview with HuffPost. "That's obviously a positive for us not just in the power of the brand, but also ultimately in sales."

Dove’s ongoing conversations about reshaping the face of beauty raised sales from $2.5 billion in the campaign’s inaugural year to $4 billion in 2014.

Joining Social Conversations

Growing up with intrusive advertising that uses my search habits to bait me, I can spot an ad a mile away. As a generation, millennials are 1.5x more likely to use ad blocking software. Marketers must be ready to tell a story that adds value to my conversations or they will get lost in the chatter.

When developing content, brands should:

  1. Start by listening. What is important to your audience? What are they talking about?
  2. Find the right fit. Joining a conversation that does not match your brand’s values and mission can make your presence awkward and, worse, unwelcome.  
  3. Bring something new to the table. Instead of reiterating and agreeing, how can your brand further the discussion with a unique perspective?
  4. Tell a story. Forcing products into images will feel inauthentic. Engaging your audience in meaningful ways builds trust and credibility.
  5. Use a conversational tone. Pay attention to not only what your audience is talking about but also how they are talking about it.
  6. Develop your visual voice and tone. With social networks being predominantly visual platforms, photos should match the authenticity of your voice.
  7. Use photos that belong. Images should be polished and professional yet authentic. What types of images is your audience already engaging with? Use those as your gauge and guide.
  8. Adjust tactics to follow the conversation. Where does your audience go to keep up with the conversation? Why do they still care?

By following these guidelines, your brand can connect with millennials in ways that are meaningful to them and, in turn, profitable for you.

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