How to Speak Millennial: 9 Best Practices to Follow When Writing for Millennials

The Millennial Falcon

Haters gonna hate . . .

Many an article has been penned (or, for the comment-lurking nitpickers, typed) about the failings of the Millennial generation.

  • Why, they’re online addicts with short attention spans!
  • They’re narcissistic, materialistic, unrealistic twerps who don’t understand what it means to get a real job!
  • They’ve forgotten how to maintain interpersonal relationships that don’t involve a screen!
  • They’re entitled and demand everything for free!
  • They’re the reason marriages don’t work out anymore!
  • They’re only skinny because they photograph their food instead of eating it!
  • They’re click-happy, swipe-happy, selfie-taking, duck-lipped (or, if we’re really staying on trend, sparrow-faced) Fickle Freddies who share content more for social recognition than personal interest!

Whew. Annoyed yet? We certainly are.

Leave the big brush behind

In addition to painting with ridiculously broad strokes over a population that spans different countries, cultures, education levels, and consumer values, these often obnoxious claims fail to recognize the power of Millennials in online culture. Perhaps one truth that may be safely applied en masse is that this generation grew up during the rise of the Internet. Their formative years were spent alongside a rapid technological advancement not experienced by any other generation.

We’re talking about people who watched Family Matters and Full House, nursed Nano Pets, and jammed to the Backstreet Boys on Discmans. People who can imitate the sound of dial-up Internet but now navigate touchscreens and instant communication like extensions of their bodies. Millennials have grown up with constant, fast-paced changes to the way knowledge and information are obtained, processed, and shared.

As a result, they read and interact with content differently than those who witnessed these changes during adulthood, or those who were born already plugged in to the App Store. Any online writing venture marketing to Millennials must address their unique reading styles. These are tech-savvy individuals with a literal world of obtainable knowledge and purchasing power. Writing specifically for Millennials may be the biggest influence on your blog’s potential success.

Get ready to target your writing

Millennial PocahontasIf Pocahontas were a Millennial, she’d have sung, “The thing I like about news feeds is, you can’t log in to the same feed twice; the info’s always changing, always flowiiiiing!” In addition to the surge of information that constantly threatens to drown out yours, there’s this hard truth to face: your content probably isn’t original. The rule of the Internet seems to be if you can think of a concept, it already exists online somewhere. So, should Millennials swipe upon your blog, will the design and writing be enough to keep them there? The following steps are a guide to help you when blogging for Millennials so that you attract and keep your readers—and convince them to share your posts.

1. Looks are everything

Online content marketing tycoon Hubspot reported that Internet users judge the aesthetic value of a website in as fast as one-fiftieth of a second. That snap impression is particularly influential on Millennials, who, according to Millennial Marketing, will actually reject quality content if the visual effect is poor. Cluttered, unappealing web spaces are perceived as unreliable, unprofessional, and unintelligent. As seen in this helpful infographic by Digital Information World, 94% of online users develop mistrust and dismiss a website because of poor design, and 75% use website design as the basis for their opinion of a website’s credibility. For those who don’t identify as particularly tech-savvy, blog hosts like Blogger, WordPress, and Tumblr have built-in design templates and customizable options, as do many domain providers like GoDaddy and Wix.com. It’s worth it to take a few hours to play with these features and develop a unique, attractive web space that will make Internet readers want to stick around.

2. Meet their needs, and stop there

Remember the cutesy acronym KISS—Keep It Simple, Stupid? This doesn’t mean you should lower the reading level of your writing, but rather that you should keep your main text focused. Provide links to supplementary information instead of explaining it in the post itself, which often weighs down the writing and makes it harder for your answer-seeking readers to find the information they came to your page for in the first place.

3. Make the hunt easy

An important development (evolution or mutation? We’re not sure…) in the way Millennials read is that they scan for important information rather than reading content in its entirety. The most successful blog posts are those that are structured so that the main points can be gleaned from a quick scan even if you don’t read the entire piece. Headings, subheadings, lists, and graphical content are all excellent ways to guide readers to your post’s critical information in a hurry.

4. Use visual interest

In a similar vein, Millennials are more responsive to visual content than block text. This may require some technical skills or the selection of a host site that is better optimized for visual aids (Medium and Tumblr are great examples). High-quality images or videos are not only more likely to attract online readers to your blog post in the first place; they also increase the chances of those users sharing your post with their social media circles.

5. Teach, don’t preach

Unlike the older Baby Boomers and Gen Xers, Millennials respond best to content that reads as if it’s been written by someone similar to themselves—friends, family, even strangers—rather than by “experts.” In short? Be relatable and genuine in your writing. The #YOLO trend has thankfully died down (save for a few ill-thought-out tattoos), but the concept “You Only Live Once” does a good job of summing up what kind of content reaches Millennials. This is a generation that is largely motivated by firsthand experience. Create an experience through your writing that is interesting, relatable, and shareable.

That said, one of the most painful and misguided writing trends hitting websites meant to market to Millennials is the plague of dumbed-down writing. People read content to learn something, so don’t make your audiences feel that they aren’t being taken seriously or that you, the writer, are not trustworthy. Interesting, engagingly written content that teaches its readers something or inspires a dialogue will have more lasting appeal than assumed-to-be-popular vernacular.

6. Separate the trends from the fads

This is a biggie. Staying on top of trending topics, visual styles, and overarching messages that resonate positively with Millennials is important in developing a feel in your writing that will appeal to this target group. For example, 48% of Millennials interviewed for the Boston Consulting Group’s U.S. Millennial Supplemental Consumer Sentiment Survey (2013) reported they prefer to invest their time, money, and attention in companies that demonstrate social responsibility and environmental sustainability. In this study by NewsCred, 64% of Millennials report positive responsiveness to posts that are useful and relevant to their cultural interests.

What not to do, however, is hastily adopt fads. Fads don’t have lasting value within the generation; they are catchy items that surge in popularity and die down just as quickly, often drawing negative reactions when used after their peak. Need proof? Think of how quickly “clickbait” headlines plummeted from edgy to cringe-worthy.

7. Optimize for sharing

While the joke that the Millennial reader processes only 140 characters or fewer is a tad insulting, the point does have merit in terms of sharing potential. Incorporating Twitter-sized pockets of information into your post or boiling down the essence of the piece to such a size will help in getting it shared across social media platforms. Consider how lengthy news articles use pull-out quotes to highlight key information. Are the most important points of your post contained in succinct, nicely worded parcels?

8. Proofread

The Internet is brutal to those who make innocuous typos or punctuation and spelling errors. What happens in Vegas may stay there, but your Internet blunders are just a screenshot away from being permanent and globally accessible, like the ones seen here. We cannot state enough the importance of having your blog content edited by another party, preferably a professional.

9. Creep

Millennials process information quickly.When you’re faced with endless waves of competition, staying current is critical in maintaining approval from Millennial audiences. Research popular keywords, keep track of trending headlines and hashtags on Twitter, and be aware of frequently shared or liked news items to keep your own writing interesting and relevant. Millennials grew up in an era of rapid change that forced intuitive learning. As a result, this group of Internet consumers processes information quickly, learns fast, and adapts even faster; if your blog doesn’t do the same, they’ll move on to one that does.

Marketing ain’t wasted on the young

Advertising analytics prove that brand loyalty and buying habits are established at a young age. Politicians know that the underexploited young vote has the power to turn an election. Online writing industries—from blogs to news outlets to creative content hubs like Colossal and Upworthy—have shifted their headlines, content presentation, and writing voices to suit the reading styles most consistently observed in younger audiences. Millennials dominate the online world and are the next generation of consumers; wise bloggers know how to play to the reading habits and responses of this age group to successfully generate a following. Still above writing for Millennials? Better not quit your day job, son.

Image sources: OpenClipartVectors/Pixabay.com, Luis Llerena/Stocksnap.io, ClkerFreeVectorImages/Pixabay.com