5 Ways to Turn Social Media Followers Into Activists

As we prepare to release research from our sixth year of The Millennial Impact Project, something that remains abundantly clear is how well the Millennial generation uses the power of social media to influence their networks and share their causes.

In fact, it’s really Millennials who control social networks. Case in point: 88% of Millennials are on Facebook, compared with 81% of Gen X-ers and 70% of Baby Boomers. And 59 percent of Millennials are on Twitter, compared with 48% of Gen X-ers and 31% of Boomers.

Through our research, we’ve identified trends about how Millennials view and act on philanthropy. For example, Millennials engage with causes because they want to help people, not institutions. They support issues instead of organizations.

But perhaps the most poignant trend is that Millennials treat all assets (time, money, etc.) as equal. On social media, that means a Millennial doesn’t share a cause video to his or her friends/followers just to share some content – they do so to help spread the message in the hopes of making a difference. Sharing a video to further a cause is just as important to this generation as is donating money or volunteering time.

So how can your organization influence your Millennial audience to act outside of social media? Similarly, how can you inspire your Millennial employees to take interest in a company-driven cause?

1. Start small

Millennials prefer to act on a smaller scale before fully committing to a cause. When engaging with individuals of this generation, don’t expect them to go from liking your page to making your organization their cause of choice instantly. By the same token, don’t assume employees will take interest in your company’s cause just because they work there.

Instead, take baby steps. Offer low-commitment opportunities or events that push them to interact with your cause offline or out of the office.

2. Embrace opportunities their peers will be interested in

Millennials are most highly influenced by their peers. In fact, 46% of Millennial employees are more likely to make donation if a co-worker asks them to. So to increase interaction between your Millennial audience and your cause – or between your Millennial employees and your company’s cause – consider planning events or hosting programs that are interesting to this generation and their friends or coworkers.

3. Make them feel useful

They’re often called narcissist, but Millennials typically just want to feel confident in themselves – and that they’re needed.

Our 2015 Millennial Impact Report: Cause, Influence & the Next Generation Workplace found that 25% of Millennial employees volunteer because they’re able to use their skills to benefit a cause. Incorporate your member or employee’s specific talents to make them truly feel like they’re making a difference.

4. Share the why behind the what

Millennials won’t just volunteer time or donate money because you ask them to – they need to know what their funds or energy will be going toward and how it will make a difference.

79% of Millennial employees who volunteer through a company-sponsored initiative feel they make a difference through their involvement. Whether you’re a nonprofit or a business, really communicate your cause’s mission to this generation for maximum involvement.

5. Create leadership out of passion

Millennials aren’t interested in climbing the job ladder linearly. Create opportunities for leadership that are rooted in an individual’s passion for the cause instead of expecting them to vie for a position simply because it exists.

Lead by example

On a larger scale, companies should lead by example, starting with direct management. 27% of Millennial employees are more likely to make a donation if their supervisor asks them to, while 21% of Millennial employees are more likely to make a donation if a CEO or top-ranking executive asks them to. Even more importantly, 44% of Millennial employees said they are more likely to volunteer if their supervisor participates.

This generation of volunteers, donors and employees are a special group of individuals – and, more importantly, they are the future of your company and your cause. Embrace Millennials on social media today to turn them into your cause’s activists tomorrow.

The 2015 Millennial Impact Report will be debut on Wednesday, June 24 at MCON 2015. You can register to watch MCON for free online or join us June 24-25 at the Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago.

Derrick Feldmann is the founder of MCON, the nation’s premier conference on Millennials and social good. He leads the research efforts for The Millennial Impact Project and serves as president of Achieve, a research and creative agency for causes.

John Haydon