If a millennial goes to a club and no one on social media is around to see it, did it really happen?
An unmaterialistic generation, all millennials want is wi-fi for their smartphone and a constant supply of enjoyable life experiences. Prioritising experiences over possessions is, in theory, a good thing. It's been linked to high levels of life satisfaction, which psychologists have put down to our ability to connect emotionally to an experience. Unlike our feelings towards material goods, this connection does not diminish over time.
However, does this only apply when we choose to embrace an experience purely for its own sake? After all, once these experiences become connected with another value, they change, becoming, in a sense, material.
This raises an interesting point for social media-minded millennials, sharing moments for peer approval. Are they living for the experiences or simply collecting them as virtual possessions?
Experiences are marketed on social media like material goods
As the largest generation in Western history enter adulthood--with their own, albeit modest, disposable incomes--industries of every description are changing to cater for millennials' scrupulously-documented requirements.
To win over the millennial customer base, brands must work to make themselves compatible with the demographic's desire to promote their personal identity through social media.
Through sharing, millennials choose to promote experiences which reflect their own personality. It is, therefore, more important than ever for "experience providers" to tap into what millennials are trying to identify with--politically, ethically and aesthetically.
Consequently, marketers are beginning to understand the importance of influencer marketing--using social media figureheads as brand ambassadors to market goods and experiences.
Living for likes: looks matter
Instagram and Snapchat are two of the three most popular social media platforms among millennials--after, of course, Facebook. A third of 18-34 year olds have Snapchat on their smartphones, and almost half have Instagram. With customers gladly sending widely-viewed, real-time reports of their experiences, businesses have to become hyper aware of their aesthetic appeal.
The first sector to take note of this trend was the food and drink industry. When dining, taking photographs of meals and "unique dining experiences" are now par for the course.
Restaurants and eateries are changing their menus, honing their presentation skills in order to provide photogenic dishes. Chili's Grill & Bar admitted to tweaking its meals to make them look more attractive on Instagram--with over 25,000 followers, it's obviously working.
But how does this translate as an actual experience? Some food critics worry that the time and energy put into food presentation is diverting focus from the cooking itself.
The answer may not matter much to either party. For the time being, they can enjoy (and benefit from) the social media promotion while living in relative ignorance.
Digital marketers have been quick to grasp its significance; they've realised that visually documented experiences are critical for brand awareness. Video is already integral to creating the optimum online experience, with some saying it's possibly transforming the future of search.
The king of autobiographical visual snippets, Snapchat, has been lauded for its ability to bring potential customers to a company's website. If most of those videos contain brand endorsements that reach thousands, perhaps it's no surprise.
Experiences that don't change disappear
Unless you are yourself an avid Snapchat or Instagram user, the idea of life revolving around these--or any--photo-based apps may seem a little far fetched. But there is already evidence to suggest that industries which fail to cater to millennials' social media needs fall out of favour.
Nightclubs across the UK have been closing down. Millennials no longer seem interested in spending their evenings on this experience--some have argued that a rising majority are trading shots for smoothies. Marketing expert Mark Borkowski told The Independent that one of the reasons nightclubs are struggling to attract young visitors is that they are unable to create a "unique and photogenic experience".
The same buildings that once lured customers out are now keeping them in. Venues are being forced out of high-rent inner city locations, and being considered for redevelopment into luxury flats.
For millennials, the stress and uncertainty of buying or renting has loomed over them throughout their lives. With such a strong focus on housing and saving money, it's not surprising that millennials are choosing to spend their nights inside.
They're still highly social, but their engagements are now expected to happen from the comfort of their own homes. London property developers Tipi have noted that, in the face of higher rents and less disposable income, millennials expect more from their housing while also wanting to avoid the administrative hassles of moving. Social spaces and communal areas are a particularly important feature to Generation Rent, granting them control over the experiences they create for themselves. There, they can be as photogenic, unique and inexpensive as they choose.