There’s a reason you’re constantly hearing and reading about Millennials—those born between about 1980 and 2000—because they are an enormous group of consumers with enormous buying power. According to a report by the consulting firm Accenture, there are about 80 million Millennials in the U.S. and each year they spend approximately $600 billion. They’re not just self-involved teens anymore either, Millennials now include those in their 20s and 30s, those with careers, homeowners, parents. By 2020 Accenture projects this generation’s spending as consumers in the U.S. will balloon to $1.4 trillion annually and represent 30 percent of total retail sales in this country.

This cohort of customers has also redefined marketing, resetting expectations of what people will get from brands both on and offline. What worked with their parents and their grandparents doesn’t work for Millennials. Google Think talks about “Gen C”, which it also calls (somewhat self-servingly) “The YouTube Generation”  as a “powerful new force in consumer culture…. people who care deeply about creation, curation, connection and community.” Although Gen C isn’t defined by age, 80% are Millennials.  

Reaching them is both easy—Millennials are plugged in to every social network via every known device on the planet—and tricky. What works is content that’s engaging, clever, useful and/or entertaining. One example is Tasty, Buzzfeed’s food and recipe video network that launched less than a year ago and is now the largest food network in the world. Its success has to do with its ability to connect with its audience, largely Millennials, by delivering to them what they like in the way they like it—videos about food that are short, visually engaging, easy to understand and potentially do-able.

You may not need a food network to reach your Millennial consumer, but you can create the kind of content that connects with them and that they want to share on social media. Here’s how:

Get their attention.

To get anyone to take an action, you first have to get their attention. That’s not easy to do with Millennials, who are bombarded with thousands of marketing messages each day. They generally tune out what doesn’t feel relevant or compelling.  Your job is to get them to engage with your business and your brand, and that’s where high quality content comes in. Millennials are the first generation to be open to engaging with ads and content (not just receiving them). They will share them, but only if the content is worth sharing, which it often isn’t.

A study by Yahoo, Tumblr, Razorfish and Digitas found that 45% of Millennials don’t find ad content worthy of sharing. That means marketers need to do a better job of understanding what resonates with this generation. Another study done by youth market research firm Voxburner, The Youth Trends Report 2015, found that short, concise, visual and collaborative content is what will get the attention of Millennial consumers. Create ads or content campaigns (whether that’s blogs or email newsletters) that are short, clever and insightful.

Give them something of value.

Millennials consume a boatload of content each day in a variety of forms—blogs, news, online shows, social network posts and video. They watch a lot of videos, on a variety of platforms and devices. Your business needs to have a multi-platform marketing strategy that pulls Millennials in with content that engages, entertains and informs. Most of all, you should be creating and distributing non-commercial information that consumers find useful. Content marketing shouldn’t be self-serving (although ultimately it will serve the business). About 40% of Millennials don’t mind seeing ads if they are relevant to their lives, according to a YouTube-Nielsen multi-screen audience study, but they are highly sensitive to being played—if the brand’s message doesn’t resonate with them, that content or ad will be dismissed as noise.  The information you send out should enhance their busy lives in some way, from offering an easy recipe for a weeknight dinner to a 6-second Vine video that makes them laugh.

Create an active community.

Millennials are inherently social creatures, and their social interactions—as in social networking—give them a sense of self. Google Think’s report said that “they are what they like, share, +1, tweet, comment on, retweet….”   It also is how Millennial consumers determine what they will buy. They depends on others—whether that’s friends and family or review platforms like Yelp, TripAdvisor or Angie’s List—to get information, advice and recommendations. Your content will create a community around it by telling the story behind your business and the people who make it great. When your audience gets to know you and your company’s expertise, they are more likely to trust you and want to be part of that community.  Encourage them to comment on blog posts and other content and then share their comments with other customers and readers. Provide teasers to your content on social media, invite them to your blog. Let them choose to sign up for your emails because the really like what you have to say.

Keep it real.

In every piece of content you create to promote your products, services and brand, be authentic. What you want is to inspire some kind of emotional attachment to your brand, but the only way to do that is to be straight with your Millennial customers. They are eager to share content that’s funny, poignant, speaks to their lifestyle or spurs them to action. It gives them credibility and validity within their communities, which is why content that’s pithy, smart, shocking, beautiful—you get the idea—will be readily shared and commented upon. Perhaps most importantly, it will begin the conversations you want to be having with your customers.