How Can The Cable Industry Capture Millennials Through Social Media?



If cable providers embrace millennials’ favorite social networks and use them to complement their products and services, they can attract, engage, and retain more millennials.


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Recent data shows 77% of millennials regularly use a streaming service rather than watch TV through a cable subscription. For millennials, streaming devices and services like Netflix and Amazon Prime offer affordable, on-the-go entertainment solutions. They can watch their favorite shows anywhere, anytime, and on practically any device.

But the shift in viewing—and buying—behavior worries cable providers. They make their money through subscriptions and value-add channels like ESPN and HBO, and this year has already been a hard one: Many people have cut the cable cord, slashing cable providers’ profits. Because of that, cable providers are looking for ways to attract and convince people, specifically millennials, to buy.

How Social Media Can Help

Social media could be one of those ways. According to Nielsen’s 2016 Social Media Report, millennials spend a little over five hours per week on social media. The demographics prove interesting, if not illuminating, too. Nielsen reports females use social media slightly more than males (25% versus 19%). In addition, “they’re likely to be on Facebook on Sundays via smartphone, while watching primetime [television].”

The overall rise in social media usage, though, may be of more interest to cable providers. Nielsen finds that social media use has increased by 38% for males since Q3 2015. For females, the increase rests at 34%.

The growth likely strengthens ShareThis’s CEO Kurt Abrahamson’s article titled and claiming “social media is the new television.” He cites a good example to support his opinion: the Oscars. Although traditional viewership was low, social activity was high. Lower ratings isn’t an isolated incident; the same phenomenon has occurred or is occurring with the political debates and sporting events. To Abrahamson, the trend means “media companies and marketers should be paying more attention to their content on social.”

He offers a valid point, and it’s one supported by Nielsen Social’s president Sean Casey. He says social media offers networks—cable providers, too—opportunities to “engage with audiences in unprecedented and beneficial ways.” Millennials might refuse the traditional viewing experience with its commercials. However, they might be enticed toward a cable subscription with a clever Instagram ad or chat about #NCIS on Twitter.

Three Ways to Use Social Media to Attract Millennials

Using social media to capture millennials, though, requires a different approach than that found with other audiences. Millennials often adopt technologies and platforms early, making them more difficult to reach. Cable providers can’t adopt social networks at the same rate their millennial counterparts do; some social networks fade into the online ether three to six months after launch. Fortunately, some advice for targeting millennials holds true, regardless of social media channel.

1. Use Video More Than Text

Some marketing experts might veto the written word, but it still holds a place in today’s video- and image-saturated ecosystem. That being said, video works well with millennials, inviting them into experiences and opportunities for real-time conversations.

Pro Tip: Cable providers should view online video as augmentation, not replacement. During the 2016 presidential debates, people tuned in to YouTube almost as much as they did the television. Cable providers should keep the data point in mind and consider crafting how-to videos and answers to commonly asked questions.

2. Offer Exclusive Content

Exclusive content always attracts an audience, and millennials are no exception. Exclusive translates to people feeling like they belong to a select group and encourages online conversations. When people receive interesting news, they almost inevitably share it with others.

Pro Tip: Cable providers should determine what kind of exclusive content to offer. One company using exclusive content is Whole Foods Market, releasing exclusive articles with recipes or shopping tips. The brand publishes the content on its website, and then offers teasers on Facebook.

3. Share a Visual Story

All sorts of brands use Instagram, including ones that might seem, well, boring. But these “boring” brands—businesses like FedEx, Oracle, and Salesforce—use Instagram incredibly well. They might not always use the social network to garner sales, but they do use them to meet other business goals, such as recruiting new talent, building a positive reputation, or engaging new audiences.

Pro Tip: Cable providers should assess their business goals and pinpoint where networks like Instagram and Snapchat align with them. Millennials generally abhor being sold and marketed to, but they love seeing how a product benefits them. They also enjoy feel-good stories, so cable providers involved with underserved populations or disaster relief would do well to share those anecdotes visually, along with a quality caption and relevant hashtags.

Final Thoughts

Cable providers face lower subscription rates today. However, the fact shouldn’t cause them to despair because help exists: social media. If cable providers embrace millennials’ favorite social networks and use them to complement their products and services, they can attract, engage, and retain more millennials.

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