This may sound like odd advice from someone who wrote a book titled, “When Millennials Take Over,” but it’s important that we don’t become too obsessed with the Millennial generation right now. Yes, they are the largest generation in the history of the United States, and yes, I think it’s critical to learn about this generation’s perspective, given the unique and influential spot they hold in our history.
But in the end, they are merely another generation that will forever be sharing their power and influence with other generations in today’s workplace, and in your online community. If you put blinders on and focus only on the Millennials, you’ll get into as much trouble as you would if you ignored their power and influence.
So how do you strike a balance? Here are four ways to pay attention to Millennials’ needs without losing sight of everyone else’s.
Learning about Millennials, as I’ve said many times, is important. They have a lot to teach us about being successful in this day and age. But remember, you can learn by simply including them in your conversations about what you’re doing. Invite some to your meetings. Include some in that conference call. When it comes to your online community, ask them directly how they want to engage and be engaged. This is diversity 101, but make sure those voices are part of the conversation and you’ll be doing a lot of learning. If the only way you learn is to go to another webinar on how to sell to the Millennial generation, then your results will be limited.
Don’t design everything you do explicitly for the Millennials (unless, of course, they happen to be your precise target market!). While it’s important to design things that make sense to Millennials (e.g., don’t require your members to use outdated tools, and let people try before they have to buy), the Millennials’ needs are not necessarily going to be primary every time. In fact, one of the key principles of the Millennial era is customization—for everyone in your market, not just one segment of it—so pay attention to what the other generations want and need as well, or you’ll start to fall behind.
What that means in terms of your online community strategy is finding ways that Millennials can learn from the expertise of other generations. In one example, an organization we work with created forums where any member could learn about and comment on current industry standards, but in an informal way separate from their formal standards process. So “younger” members could get a taste for how standards development works and what kind of expertise you might need to get on a committee in the future.
In the end, your online community must exist not because a particular generation likes it, but because it creates enduring and meaningful value to stakeholders. That meaningful value will ebb and flow and change for any one individual over time, depending on the particular life stage and professional development. The better you are at the art and science of community building, and understanding how to bring in value at different stages, the more successful you will be regardless of the mix of generations.
This post is part of a series about Millennials and Online Community. Join us in the conversation!