Social media has a reputation as a place where hot influencers promote hip brands, but that doesn’t mean businesses in “boring” industries can’t connect with younger audiences online. If you’re a business owner in a traditional industry struggling to engage Gen Z and young Millennials, don’t give up yet.
After all, your best bet might be to meet your audiences where they’re at — in terms of both your platform and your approach. You can likely solve your social media woes with a few tips and a change in perspective.
How Old Industries Learn New Tricks
Companies in traditional industries like banking, insurance, and utilities haven’t had the luxury of assumed coolness for decades, if they ever did. That’s not because people don’t like them, however. Traditional industries have struggled to engage with young people because the oldest industries tend to be those that are necessary, not those that make life more fun.
Companies that provide streaming services and fashion subscription boxes don’t face the same problem. Young people’s grandparents didn’t grow up watching Netflix and picking out new clothes via Stitch Fix. For old industries to bridge the gap, companies must convince young audiences that their brands’ messages, products, and services are deserving of attention.
Some brands take that as a call to act like something they’re not, which leads to disaster. Reddit has an entire section of its website (a subreddit named FellowKids, with more than 700,000 subscribers) dedicated to calling out brand social media blunders. Try to speak to young audiences using their language, and there’s a good chance your company could end up on the FellowKids front page.
Rather than Google “popular memes” and blunder your way into a conversation, think about the core values of your company and the needs your products and services fulfill. Good old “boring” industries exist because people need them. Young people have spent most of their lives having their basic needs met by someone else. As grown-ups, they don’t need brands to share the best memes — they need companies in traditional industries to answer their questions, provide better service, and help them make the transition into full-blown adulthood.
Go from Boring to Beloved on Social Media
Try these tips to stand out on social media in an industry where few others do:
1. Answer customers’ big questions.
“What are kilowatt-hours, and why do I pay so much for them? Should I get a credit card if I already have a debit card? How do I know if my insurance is full coverage?” Young people are full of questions like these because they’ve never needed to know the answers until recently. Now that they’re on their own, they’re looking for traditional brands to guide them to the right answers.
Focus on social media content that provides quick-hitting answers to important questions. Don’t build an FAQ page on your website and assume everyone can find the information there. Break questions down into smaller posts, use visuals to provide easy-to-understand answers, and listen to what commenters say. If people are asking questions you haven’t answered, make posts about those issues and add the content to your webpage for searchers to find.
2. Stay accessible.
Young social media users expect brands to be available 24/7. Not even companies traditionally open during limited hours, like banks, are exempt from that expectation. If people can manage their accounts at midnight, they want to be able to ask questions at midnight, too.
You don’t necessarily need to hire a ‘round-the-clock team to answer questions on social media, but you should maintain some level of presence at all hours. Look into social media chatbots to fulfill that purpose. With chatbots, users can get answers to basic questions and request callbacks and emails for more complicated issues.
3. When you entertain, remain self-aware.
Not all of your content has to be educational. You can post entertaining content if you want (and if it makes sense for your brand’s voice). When you do, though, don’t try to be something you’re not. Young people can spot a fake from a mile away, and in the case of banks, insurance companies, and businesses in traditionally “dull” industries, they naturally assume that social media teams don’t get their sense of humor.
Instead of invading their turf, invite them to join yours. Post cool stories about how your employees and customers are making the world a better place. Young people love brands with purpose. You can joke around as much as you want, but if you do, stay humble — do it in a self-deprecating way. Young social media users may roll their eyes at brands that try too hard to be cool, but they can appreciate brands that acknowledge their generational humor gap and participate in good-natured fun.
Today’s youngest buyers need brands in traditional industries, just like their parents and grandparents did. Now that the way companies communicate with consumers has changed, the tactics brands use to engage with the next generations must change as well. Try talking to young users on social media in an authentic way, and they’ll reward you with their attention — even if you don’t always get it right.