Millennials are the largest generational group after the baby boomers. Their large size and growth around the internet has made them receive attention from different fields of study (Taken Smith, 2012). Social media has been closely associated with this generation. The topic on the role of social media in the lives of millennials is important in this research because it helps people to understand this large group so that they can reach to them for different purposes such as digital marketing. Past and current literature addresses several themes and trends in research questions, methodology, and findings on this topic. A majority of studies indicate that the role of social media in the lives of millennials is majorly to socialize and create a sense of community. The generation also communicates interactively in social media because the platforms are easily available in smart phones, computers and mobile phones. Research has also found millennials seeking social media for pleasure, entertainment and convenience (Williams, Crittenden, Keo and McCarty, 2012). The purpose of this paper is to examine how social media roles in the lives of millennials are affected by their gender, cultural differences and demographics.
Socialization and a Sense of Community
A majority of studies indicate that the role of social media in the lives of millennials is majorly to socialize and create a sense of community. Social media provides a platform that enables millennials to make new friends and create a community. This has been the trend since the rise of the millennials and is still the same. The difference is that millennials are finding more social media sites to socialize.
Bolton et al (2013) carried out a research on what is known and that which is unknown concerning millennials’ use of social media. The researchers found out that social media has been beneficial to the millennials because they use it to form and maintain social capital.
A different research by Kim, Sohn and Choi (2011) found that Sites such as Facebook boost the social capital of the young people. This is because millennial’s identities are shaped by that which they share and what others share and say about them. Use of social media has more salutary effects on the millennial’s emotional and psychological well-being since it strengthens family bonds (Bolton et al., 2013; Kim, Sohn and Choi, 2011).
Williams, Crittenden, Keo and McCarty (2012) conducted a study among 74 undergraduate millennials on how they utilized 12 social media platforms. The researchers found out that more than 50% were text messaging and social networking, while 96% were socializing and creating a sense of community on Twitter and Facebook.
Social media is also playing a role in Interactive communication among the lives of the millennials. Since millennials are profusely using social media, digital marketing has become an effective manner to communicate with them. Organizations have discovered that they can easily communicate with them in digital forms. They use smart phones, computers and mobile phones to promote and sell their services and products.
A research study by Taken Smith (2012) surveyed the millennials in a Southwest US university and collected data for a period of three years. The research questions used included what motivates millennials to write online reviews and which websites grab the attention of the millennials. The study found out that millennials are regular visitors of social media websites, where they go there to make online reviews and find products and services being promoted.
Kim, Sohn and Choi (2011) carried a research to compare how millennials used social media between US and Korea. The researchers found that one of the main reasons millennials from both countries use social media was to look for information. According to the researchers, the millennials rely on social media for information resources. Williams et al., (2012) used a qualitative exploratory methodological approach to analyze the social behaviors of the millennials on social media. The research found out that 46% of millennials engage in blogging, especially on Blogger and BlogSpot social sites. These individuals use blogs to communicate interactively with other millennials and the community around them.
Researchers have found out that social media is also used majorly for entertainment by the millennials. A large number of them use social media as a source of entertainment instead of watching movies or television. With a wide range of entertainment forms, millennial consumers have spread their attention across multiple social media platforms.
A research by Williams et al., (2012) found out that forty eight percent of millennials use streaming video on social media for entertainment purposes. Among this percentage, the researchers found that 72% used YouTube to stream the clips after which they share the links to their social ties on other social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter.
Kim, Sohn and Choi (2011) found out in their research that social media plays a role in entertaining the millennials. According to the researchers, millennial college students from both US and Korea utilized social media for pleasure which comes from their exchange of experiences, information and video or music clips.
Bolton et al (2013) also found out that millennials use social media for entertainment. In their article, they state that generation Y use social media for the same reasons as other generations, that is, for leisure, information and entertainment. According to the researchers, millennials in collectivistic Korea obtain social support, while the individualistic USA counterparts sought more entertainment from social media.
Social media has become a necessity for the millennials because it they are the generation that has been with the internet all through. Social media platforms have made it convenient and easy for these individuals to find people, have a sense of community, communicate and find information. In just a few simple clicks, one obtains what they want through social media.
In their research, Kim, Sohn and Choi (2011) found out that millennials use social media because they find it convenient. The researchers point out that millennials refer to social media as a convenient attractive venue. This is because of the convenient access to various communicative capabilities that facilitate social connections and other internet activities. The millennials turn to those sites as personal hubs on the internet.
According to the research by Bolton et al (2013), Gen Y uses social media to easily and conveniently access online review/rating sites, virtual game worlds, video sharing sites and online communities, whereby others produce, design, publish, or edit content. Taken Smith (2012) points out that millennials have grown in the digital world where they frequently use the internet for activities such as shopping. According to the study, they also seek entertainment, news and engage in social networking platforms because of convenience. The authors argue that millennials will continue to be the mainstays of e-commerce so long as they remain on social media.
Literature from research indicates that millennials have grown around the internet and social media platforms, which has played different roles in their lives. Past and present research shows that millennials seek social media to socialize and get a sense of community, engage in interactive communication, get entertained and for convenience. The research however fails to show whether the roles differ according to gender, culture or demographics of the millennials.
The collective strengths of this research is that there is a lot of information that has been gathered from among the millennials over the years. This provides a good information background of research in this topic. In addition, the internet and social media sites make it easier for data collection among the millennials. This research however, has a number of weaknesses. The current population is a mixture of different generations starting from the traditionalists/silent generation, baby boomers, generation X, Millennials and centennials/Gen Z. Currently, baby boomers, generation X, Millennials and the centennials are equally using social media. The weakness presented by this fact is that it would be difficult to collect information from a millennials without contribution from the others.
The available literature fails to address whether the roles played by social media in the lives of the millennials is affected by gender, cultural differences and demographics of different communities. Current literature addresses the question of millennials as a whole. The next step in research on this field should be to address how the roles played by social media in the lives of the millennials are affected by gender, culture and demographics. While taking this step, it will be important to use the internet and social media platforms to collect data, and overcome research weakness by assessing the characteristics of the millennials.
Bolton, R. N., Parasuraman, A., Hoefnagels, A., Migchels, N., Kabadayi, S., Gruber, T., Solnet, D. (2013). Understanding Generation Y and their use of social media: a review and research agenda. Journal of Service Management, 24(3), 245-267. doi: 10.1108/09564231311326987
Kim, Y., Sohn, D., & Choi, S. M. (2011). Cultural difference in motivations for using social network sites: A comparative study of American and Korean college students. Computers in Human Behavior, 27(1), 365-372. doi:10.1016/j.chb.2010.08.015
Taken Smith, K. (2012). Longitudinal study of digital marketing strategies targeting Millennials. Journal of Consumer Marketing, 29(2), 86-92. doi: 10.1108/07363761211206339
Williams, D. L., Crittenden, V. L., Keo, T., & McCarty, P. (2012). The use of social media: an exploratory study of usage among digital natives. Journal of Public Affairs, 12(2), 127-136. doi:10.1002/pa.1414
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