Nathalie Nahai on Why Millennials Share

*Editor’s Note: In May of 2016, we spoke with Nathalie Nahai about her fascinating research on what it is that motivates us to share across the board. This interview is a preface to the keynote she would deliver a few months later at Smart Social Summit 2016 entitled The Secret Psychology Behind Social Behavior. See what we have in store for Smart Social Summit 2017 here.

Spredfast: First off, before we dive in, what do you aim to center your talk around at Smart Social Summit?

Nathalie: I’m going to be talking about the psychology behind why (and how) we share content online. From the dynamics behind viral trends and and dopamine loops, to the ways in which social platforms leverage our desire for validation and self-esteem, this talk will include practical examples and principles you can use to make the most of your social strategy.

Millennials are poised to be a bigger generation than the Baby Boomers. How should marketers and advertisers think about and prepare for this truth?

Recent research suggests that there are a few fundamental differences that characterise Millennial audiences in relation to other generational groups. From a marketing and e-commerce perspective, the most salient of these is the way in which Millennials seek out and choose which brands to engage with. Unlike previous cohorts, this group appears to place greater importance on a company’s public commitment to good corporate citizenship, which may explain why movements such as the B Corp (a framework and certification for companies wishing to benefit society as well as their shareholders) are gaining such traction, so quickly.

We know that there are generational differences in attitudes, spending habits, and beliefs — does the same extend to the reasons why we share, or are those universal? Might a millennial have a different reason for sharing than their parent or grandparent — and how might that be different?

The underlying reasons why we share tend to transcend generations, with main drivers including a need for belonging, positive social feedback, value signaling and the desire to communicate ideas and emotional states. While the ways in which we satisfy these needs will change depending on the tools available, as well as our personal, social and cultural context, the motivations behind why we share tend to be universal and trans-generational.

There has also been much said and written about the millennial impulse toward instant gratification and, more generally speaking, pleasure. How should marketers and advertisers take this into account?

There’s a split trend happening here – on the one hand, we see the desire for (and expectation of) instant gratification; on the other, we’re witnessing a growing need to unplug, reclaim headspace, and experience life more deeply. The crucial challenge facing brands today is in deciding how to balance these opposing drives when relating with one’s customers—between knowing when to push the accelerator with (for instance) immediate, unpredictable rewards, and understanding when to take a slower, deeper approach to building trust and long-term advocacy.

You've written about Gen Y/millennial charitable habits — how does that relate on social? How can charitable organizations properly incentivize millennials?

Relating to individuals at a values-driven level will generally work best, and brands that do this well include Tom’s Shoes, Method and Ben & Jerry’s. The important thing here is to be clear on what values drive your business. Once you have defined these, you can then experiment to find the best way to live your values both internally (within the business) and externally (in customers-facing interactions, including through your social and marketing channels).

Finally, what is not different about millennials — what's one thing that never changes about why people share (or do not share), regardless of their age?

Whoever we are, we all share to feel connected with other people.

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Jaime Netzer is Content Marketing Strategist, leading content operations in marketing at Spredfast. A Lawrence, Kansas native, she traded seasons for breakfast tacos seven years ago and hasn't looked back since. Also a fiction writer and journalist, Jaime tweets semi-regularly.