Millennials Are Smartphone Fanatics! Should you care?

Paul Carringer, PhD

Millenials rock the smartphone! A recent study by Experian Marketing Services, a global provider of integrated consumer insights, tells us that “Millennials are the most digitally connected generation, with 77 percent of adult Millennials owning a smart phone” and using it for everything from talking, to texting, to social networking (1). The study is clear that Millennials are digitally driven and interacting with digital media at the rate of almost 10 hours a day, much of it driven through a smartphone.

But, should PR professionals care? If we use the Integrated Marketing Communications (IMC) model, the answer is, “it depends.” Are we trying to reach Millennials? And, when, and if we do, what exactly do we want the message to be? Most of all, how do “they” want to receive our message?

The Pew Internet and American Life study informs us that Twitter users tend to be men, 19 to 29, and making less than $35,000 a year. Lee Rainie, Director of the Knight Digital Media Center, notes that 89% of the 18 to 29 year old crowd is into social networking while 60% of the 50 to 64 year old crowd can say the same. The fastest growing group into social is those 65 and older. And, Facebook leads the pack of social media outlets with over 90% of adults in the USA onboard. (2)

The Pew study also tells us that “23% of adults get news on at least two mobile devices” (3). This is called “info-snacking and just-in-time information” gathering. However, social media is “not often a main source of news” and even less so if the web user is not mobile. Pew’s Kathryn Zickuhr notes that being mobile, “for many, means more news.” What may be a surprise to many, however, is that even Millennials turn to Old Time Media like the radio for news about traffic, according to Pew.

Let’s take a look at reporters. An extensive study of journalists has been carried out by Indiana University, School of Journalism every year beginning in 1971 (4). Recent findings indicate that journalists use Twitter (nearly 54%) and spend between 30 and 60 minutes a day scanning social media for breaking news, story leads and sources. Most journalists who responded to the survey agree that social media helps them be more engaged with their audiences (nearly 70%) and allows them to report faster (just over 60%). But most of all, social media allows them to promote their work with over 80% indicating that this is the most important impact of social media in the world of the reporter.

What does it all mean? IMC still matters! Looking for the social media silver bullet is misguided at best and relationship-destroying at its worst. Television news, though declining in numbers, still leads the pack for consumers. If the person is under 40, digital news sources are sought out, but, the more local the news and the type of news being sought, even the Millenials turn to newspapers, TV, and radio. And if our audience is made up of reporters, the relationship we have with them might mean much more than a tweet. To get our news in front of the target audiences, an integrated approach, coupled with deep market knowledge, helps us get noticed and build relationships. For those reasons, we should care.

(1) http://www.experian.com/marketing-services/millennials-report.html

(2) http://www.pewinternet.org/2014/05/09/networked-the-new-social-operating-system-in-civic-life/

(3) http://www.pewinternet.org/2013/11/04/reading-writing-and-research-in-the-digital-age/

(4) Lars Willnat and David H. Weaver (2014). The American Journalist in the Digital Age: Key Findings. Bloomington, IN: School of Journalism, Indiana University. http://news.indiana.edu/releases/iu/2014/05/2013-american-journalist-key-findings.pdf

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