How to Market to Millennials with Mass Text Messaging

Millennials, the generation of consumers born between 1982 and 2004, are always connected, and prefer texting over talking for interpersonal communication.

Forty-three percent of Millennials believe texting is as meaningful as a voice conversation over the phone. This demographic takes texting seriously, and their message volume reflects that. From 2000 to 2010, the number of text messages sent every month in the US went from 14 billion to 188 billion, and the trend isn't subsiding. A 2010 Nielsen study found that 42% of teens say the main reason they even have a phone is for texting. Marketers should expect Millennials to love text messages as a medium, and have high expectations for its content. Want to make traction when text marketing to Millennials? Here are our top dos and don'ts.

DO: Understand Why They Text

Millennials love texting because it offers control. According to Neil Howe and William Strauss--the authors credited with coining the name for this generation--these are the babies welcomed into the world with Lamaze and attachment-parenting obsessiveness. As adults they welcome order. Texting allows them to participate when they want to, and not when they don't. That control more than makes up for the bit of extra time that responding to a text requires. It's asynchronous, and far less intrusive than a call that demands to be dealt with immediately. Texting is also preferred due to an element of privacy, because texts can't be overheard, and due to their relative permanence, since they are stored until archived or deleted.

DO: Enable (Instant) Interactivity

Mass text messaging makes inherent sense when dealing with Millennials, but you can't just start blasting out texts one after the other and expect positive results. Millennials' relationships with brands are far more interactive than their parents'. That two-way communication can take many forms. They may comment on a brand's social media posts, or interact with brands via mass text messaging campaigns. But they are used to having a two-way relationship with the brands they love.

They're also impatient. If they respond to a mass text message, they won't wait long for a response. They want their coupon code or contest entry right then. So when engaging with Millennials by mass text messaging, it pays to be interactive and quick. Don't set this demographic up for a wait; they won't like it...and they won't be quiet about that displeasure!

DON'T: Water Down the Message

Millennials are used to byte-sized messages and getting news through a Twitter feed, but that doesn't mean you have to water down your message. Millennials are expected to become the most educated American generation. Older adults may be puzzled as to why their carefully composed text messages to their kids only get "k" as a response. It's not because the younger folks aren't taking it in, they've simply perfected their personal ROI on response length. Their expectations for you will be similarly high: be brief, but don't dumb it down.

DON'T: Send a Constant Stream of Texts

It may take a bit of benchmarking and statistic collecting, but most brands eventually find a sweet spot in terms of frequency of mass text messaging and response rate for Millennials. Much depends on the immediacy of the topic (a club contest that starts tomorrow vs. a sale that starts next week), but there must also be a clear purpose to the message. A steady drumbeat of irrelevant texts designed to keep a brand in the Millennial's mind will be ignored.

DO: Remind Millennials Via Text

With Millennials, mass text messaging works. Today's young adults are used to sending and receiving texts, and are used to text reminders and promotions. A study of 800 community college students by the University of Virginia and the University of Pittsburgh found that students who were sent text message reminders to reapply for student aid were more likely to reapply than those who were not sent text reminders. A survey by Millennial advocacy group Generation Opportunity found that 58% of respondents said they would be more likely to vote if they were sent a text reminder to do so. So if Millennials are your target demographic, mass text messaging could be the key to effectively engaging them as customers.

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