I like to think of myself as a “Millennial,” (someone born in the 80s to the early 2000s) but I barely meet the eligibility requirement (July 1980!). I recently had the wonderful experience of hosting a middle-school aged intern at my office to teach him all about Social Media Marketing. There is no arguing that he certainly is part of the “Millennials” and there is also no doubt that he made me feel very, very old.

In our two days working together, it cemented some beliefs I had about the younger generation, but also opened my eyes to some misconceptions about “The Millennials.”

Social Media is central to interactions

We already knew this. But what we might not realize is that some of these children are already on social media before the technical age requirements are met. At age 12, my intern already had a Facebook account and “so did all [his] friends.” When asked about receiving marketing messages while online, he said he’d prefer to receive them from Twitter or on his Facebook page. Social media is what the youngest generation is growing up understanding, and it HAS to be part of your business plan – starting now. 

In the eyes of a young person, many businesses are failing at social media

Part of his responsibility while working with me was to gauge a list of companies’ presences on Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn. Far too often he said: “I can’t find this company anywhere,” or “They are on there, but it’s obvious that they don’t update it.” We found several companies that had negative posts about their brand that sat unaddressed on their wall. The overarching theme was, even when searching for numerous businesses, with specific prompts and search terms, he had a difficult time finding these brands. This should never be the case.

Even Pre-teens are second and third screening

If I wanted to reach my intern with a marketing message, here are the avenues I could do so on- he owns an iPhone, and iPad, a television, hasFacebook, YouTube and Twitter accounts, an Xbox, an iPod Touch, received magazine subscriptions in the mail, and uses the family laptop. He was texting and checking Facebook in between tasks during his four-hour internship. When asked if he uses his phone or tablet while watching television, he admitted to doing so frequently. Point being – if you want to reach the newest generation, you need to do so on multiple channels, and the messages need to relate and be integrated into the medium. 

Overall, my experience with my “Millennial” intern was a very positive one. Despite the claims in Time Magazine, I didn’t see him as a “Lazy, Entitled Narcissist” at all. If anything, his understanding and use of technology made him a quicker learner. His upbringing on social media and mobile devices facilitated a quicker learning curve for new tasks involving computers and social search. The future is very bright for this generation, in my opinion, and it now rests in the hands of the older generation to figure out how to reach them.