Looking to Reach Millennials? Be Where the Action Is Know your online platforms to be part of Gen Y's digital experience.

By Dave Knox

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Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

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As studies pour in daily about Gen Y's digital behaviors, one theme rises to the top of the chatter: In order to resonate with millennials, marketers must avoid interruption marketing and embrace complementary marketing. This means being part of the experience, not external to it. Millennials respond to authentic experiences and context needs to hit the right note.

Matching a message with the proper platform was always important, just not always as difficult. Fifteen years ago, marketers created campaigns that were shared via media that were integral parts of their everyday lives: newspapers, radio and TV. Digital has expanded marketers' platform choices exponentially, making it critical that we take the time to understand new platforms, who is using them, why they're being used and how they can be best used to share content. Below are 4 ways innovative companies are leveraging social platforms to reach Gen Y consumers where they are already active and engaged.

Celebrate the user. Rather than filling an Instagram feed with pictures of products, look to the ways fashion retailers have use their platforms to celebrate consumers while leveraging the company's vision and values. Men's clothing site Bonobos fills its Instagram feed with customers wearing its clothes while upscale British brand Burberry highlights its brand heritage with regular postings of city scenes in London. These posts share something unique while keeping the consumer and the brands' interests front and center.

Provide an unexpected shortcut. While photo-sharing site Pinterest is well known for providing style inspiration to users, what's lesser known is that shoppers are more likely to purchase an item shared through Pinterest than other social sites, and that pins with accompanying prices are 36 percent more likely to be shared. J.Crew leveraged these trends by sharing its entire fall collection on the site. The catalog provides styling suggestions and brings users directly to new items on J.Crew's website, streamlining the path to purchase for featured items. Stylish pinners who followed the brand got a sneak peek at the fall collection and a chance to pre-order their favorites. This strategy builds upon the fashion conversations already happening on Pinterest, while rewarding loyalty and providing a tangible benefit to following the company's boards.

Invite the world. Brands looking to reach Gen Y consumers shouldn't discount YouTube. Live-streaming videos allow consumers from around the world to be in on the action as it's happening. Burberry embraced video by streaming a runway show on its YouTube channel, engaging customers who couldn't physically attend. Best of all: these tools are available for little to no cost. It's all about generating content that will resonate with the target audience, maximizing the potential of each medium.

Go back to school. College campuses are not only hotspots for marketers looking to engage millennials but have proven to be breeding grounds for breakthrough ideas. Olympia Media Group develops content that targets niche audiences in this influential generation, including its popular weekly Greek newspaper, The Odyssey, that prints campus-specific versions at 45 campuses across the US. The company was formed while the founders were in college themselves – a Gen Y company formed by Gen Y. Listening carefully to the ways that this generation speaks to itself can inspire new ways to become part of the conversation and meet its needs.

Dave Knox

Chief Marketing Officer, Rockfish

Dave Knox is Chief Marketing Officer for Rockfish, a full-service digital innovation partner that drives business for some of the world’s largest brands, and co-founder of the The Brandery, the first startup accelerator to focus on applying the principles of brand marketing to startups. He was previously a brand manager for P&G.

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