It's important for food bloggers to understand their audience, and the segments within it. If you're mystified by millennials, Tiffany Mayer shares her research into food blogging for a millennial audience to help you make sure your blog posts appeal to this influential demographic.
A couple of months ago I woke up to people tweeting a blue streak with the hashtag #HowToConfuseAMillennial. I had a laugh and threw in my own gentle jab of the generation I missed by four years.
I joked with someone — a millennial — about giving them a car with manual transmission. Heck, I know many fellow Gen X’ers who stress at the sight of a stick shift. Then I clicked the hashtag to see other tweets and realized a generation war had erupted.
It was a tweet from one of the most socially aware people I follow that really surprised me. He posted a photo of a pencil and cassette with the words “Ask them how these items are related.”
It was clear the only people confused were the “old” folks joining in this virtual human pile-on. Any older millennial would know the pencil can be used to rewind tape when a cassette player won’t.
More than just a target for misguided wisecracks on social media, millennials are a curious, creative and thoughtful generation. Not long ago, Dana McCauley talked about the trend of Millennial Moms and their importance on FBC. I learned from Megan Meyer, the associate director of science communication at the International Food Information Council (IFIC) in Washington, that they’re also a niche audience for us food bloggers.
Meyer spoke this summer at the International Food Bloggers Conference in Sacramento, California about how to reach and resonate with a demographic that’s far less befuddled than trending hashtags indicate.
What Is a Millennial?
Raise your hand if you think a millennial is someone in their late teens or early 20s. Don’t worry, you’re not wrong. You’re not entirely correct, either. Millennials, also known as Generation Y, are between the ages of 18 and 35, born between the early 80s and late 1990s.
Growing up in a high tech time, this generation doesn’t turn to newspapers to find out what’s going on. Millennials are more likely to get their news and information from social media (68 percent), word of mouth (63 percent) and news websites (62 percent).
They trust a variety of sources for their nutrition information, especially bloggers. One-third trust us to provide correct information about what they should eat versus one-quarter of general population. So the takeaway from Meyer: make sure what you’re writing is accurate. Also make SEO a priority so they can find you. And don’t forget to tailor your platform accordingly.
What Do They Want on Their Plates?
Millennials are driven to dig into a meal for hunger, thirst, enjoyment or taste. They’re less likely to take their eating cues from the time of day, habit or healthfulness.
Experience ranks supreme for our Gen Y friends, Meyer noted, so taste, price and natural foods get most consideration when eating. They’re also less likely to plan meals in advance because they don’t time when to eat, and aren’t doing much cooking for themselves. If they do get into the kitchen, their interests lie with making restaurant meals at home and doing it quickly. Six in 10 millennials will spend 15 to 45 minutes making dinner — what Meyer called the “sweet spot” for recipe development.
All millennials seem young to those misinformed hashtag users, but there are different age groups within the demographic. Young millennials are the 18-25 crowd. They’re the only age group in this generation to trust family and friends for accurate information. They have defined but not fully developed opinions about fat, protein and carbs, and they have an interest in the affordability and availability of food. Meyer called them a social bunch hungry for more messages, so her advice: find ways to multiply your message.
The Middle of the Pack
Middle millennials, those between the ages of 25 and 29, want to spend their extra time cooking or baking. Meyer called them flavour forecasters. They’re well-informed and also interested in the affordability and availability of food. They know lots about fats, protein and carbs and believe environmental impact is important for a sustainable diet (hello mason jar meals and vegan bloggers!). They’re big on what Meyer called “cook-tainment,” too.
With age comes weight and worry. Millennials in the 30 to 34 range are concerned with weight loss and maintenance. They turn to medical professionals for help improving their diet and they spend their extra money on anything but groceries. Meyer’s suggestion if you want to blog for older millennials: connect with them using messages about health.
A Distinct Demographic
But wait, there’s more to millennials than young, middle-aged and older. Minority millennials buck many trends Meyer found in her research. They’re a different audience, one that trusts food and nutrition bloggers more than the rest of their generational cohort for health information. They’re also more likely to have used online support groups, forums and blogs to improve diet and health.
Minority millennials spend more time making meals, too. While others want to be out of the kitchen in 45 minutes or less, minority millennials will devote up to an hour preparing dinner. They’re more likely to cut back on sodium, added sugar, solid fats and full-fat dairy when they do cook and eat, however. They also eat more fruits and vegetables than other millennials.
Yet despite trying to control the healthfulness of their meals, their opinions about food desperately need re-shaping. Minority millennials are more likely to believe trans fats are good for them and probiotics should be avoided.
So when targeting this audience, keep in mind they like to cook and are interested in the information we can provide about food and health.
There’s a lot to digest here. But all the stats and trends Meyer offered provide incredible insight into the kind of blog content that appeals to different segments of this generation. So how do we deliver it?
Start with meeting them where they are, Meyer said. Perhaps that’s in community forums like at MyFitnessPal, WebMD or The Bump.
Make them want to click on your content. Pro tip: pop culture references in headlines, photos and graphics help.
Be creative in how you deliver information. Infographics, for example, are one way to tailor content in a consumable, accessible way. Collaborating with culinary experts also adds credibility and interest.
Whatever you do, avoid bad hashtags. Those won’t confuse millennials. They’ll alienate an audience hungry for what we have to offer.
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- Food Trends TV: Do You Know Your Blog's Target Market?
Hungry Generation: Blogging for Millennials was written by Tiffany Mayer, a freelance journalist and author of Niagara Food: A Flavourful History of the Peninsula’s Bounty (History Press, 2014). She blogs about food and farming at eatingniagara.com. You can also listen to her newly launched food podcast, Grub.