The majority of social media feeds focus on where people are and what they’re doing – whether it’s a prideful snapshot taken from the mountain ledge of Machu Picchu after the long, adventurous hike to the top or multiple posts showing individual dishes of the nine-course tasting menu at The French Laundry in California’s lovely wine country. It’s a way for folks to share their life adventures and experiences with the world. People also use social media as a way to consume information and stay “in the know” with what everyone else is doing – that you’re not.


This is particularly true with the millennial generation, who are constantly on their favorite social apps: Snapchat and Instagram. In addition to letting friends and family see what they’re up to, millennials often use these platforms to show off and brag, stirring up FOMO—fear of missing out—for those who are not there living in the same moment.

As millennials’ massive purchasing power and trendsetting influence continue to grow, businesses need to understand what they care about and how they buy. More and more, we’re starting to see that millennials prefer to spend their hard-earned dollars on life events and experiences rather than on material objects. And with their heavy use of social media, FOMO is a constant, leading those under its influence to seek and demand “experience buying opportunities.” The bottom line? To connect with millennials, businesses need to focus on experiences – which means marketing their products based on the latest, hottest trends of what people are into doing.

For example, I’ve noticed that Nordstrom, Inc., a leading fashion specialty retailer in the US and Canada, starts advertising floral sun-dresses, crop tops, shorts, suede boots, and comfy sneakers in February because they know that the annual two-weekend music festival Coachella is coming up in April. So right smack on their homepage, Nordstrom markets “Coachella fashion” to all the music lovers and eventgoers to amp up some of the must-wear styles and increase sales. Talk about target marketing and tapping into consumers’ lifestyle trends and FOMO tendencies!


So besides seeing how millennials are dramatically influencing and being influenced by social media and stirring up FOMO emotions, what else should businesses note about millennials today?

  1. Born between 1980 and 2000, millennials are also known as “Generation Y,” the cohort following Gen X, and yes, you guessed it, the group before Gen Z kicks in.
  2. Millennials are major multitaskers, easily distracted, and always need to be connected, which is why it’s so difficult to keep them away from social media and texting – remember FOMO?
  3. As the first generation to grow up constantly connected to the internet, millennials are digital natives who need instant gratification, information, and feedback right at their fingertips. Perhaps this is why some label millennials as entitled, spoiled, lazy, and even bratty! Ouch….

What do you think? Are you a millennial yourself, or do you know someone who perfectly exemplifies the behaviors described in this blog? To further explore the nature and traits of today’s millennials, check out the research findings of Sean Sands, associate professor and managing director at Monash Business School, who recently presented at SAP Ariba Live the session titled “Selling in the Next Generation—How Millennials and Technology Are Revolutionizing the Way We Do Business.”