Social Lights Is Marketing to Millennials

Could reaching them be as simple as mastering social media?

The story goes that millennials, the 76 million–strong group of Americans born between 1982 and 2000, are profoundly different from earlier generations, making them a challenging market to target. But a tiny Minneapolis marketing firm claims it has the secret sauce. Martha McCarthy and Emily Pritchard started The Social Lights digital marketing firm in January 2011, during their last semester at the University of St. Thomas.

According to a 2010 Pew Research Center study, what sets millennials apart from other generations is their use of social media, embraced by 75 percent of the group, compared with 50 percent of generation X (ages 30 to 45), and 30 percent of baby boomers (ages 46 to 64).

The Social Lights helps clients use social media to get the younger crowd talking about the brand online. For the University of St. Thomas, the firm created a series of online humor videos to advertise the university’s business plan competition, linking to the videos via social media, e-mails, and blogs. “We helped the university raise attendance by almost 30 percent year over year,” McCarthy says.

St. Paul’s O’Gara’s Bar and Grill hired The Social Lights to attract the local college crowd to its new Shanty space. The firm suggested a weekly Saturday-night dance event, supported by social media. “If anybody has a question, they tweet us; if someone has a song request, they tweet the DJ,” says Owner Dan O’Gara. “They lost their coat, they message us on Facebook.”

“A lot of companies not focused on marketing to millennials right now will need to connect with them sooner rather than later,” McCarthy says.