Reaching Millennials Through Referral Marketing


They’re young, they’re buying stuff and they love social media: Millennials are the audience everybody wants to reach today.

Why? Millennials represent huge potential for brands — both in sheer spending power and the ability to influence and spread a message. They’re the prospects you entice with your hip restaurant, and the audience corporate decision-makers target for work with your Chicago SEO business. They’re the young parents sifting through stroller options, and the ambitious professionals who compare Internet service providers before signing a contract.


Essentially, when you figure out how to reach millennials, you reach buyers who can impact your business’s bottom line. When you tap into this audience, you’ve engaged a group of people who are quick to tell friends about what they like (or don’t like) and about what you sell, exponentially impacting your brand.


Consider this: Millennials are suspicious of traditional advertising, but they tend to listen to what their friends and connections say. They’re willing to try new services, but they want to hear why someone else thinks they should. Millennials especially prize authenticity and think before they trust. So, for brands to reach what has become the largest generation in American history, the answer lies in referral marketing.

Why Does Referral Marketing Work With Millennials?


The millennial generation grew up in a digitally saturated world. In other words, they’re natives, of sorts. As such, they are especially sensitive to advertising that misses the mark or brands that come across as inauthentic.



What do these statistics mean for you? Traditional methods of promoting product lines and advertising services, and getting the word out about your business are, by and large, going to be falling on deaf ears. When you push products in commercials, print ads, etc., you may come across as disingenuous and turn off millennials. Referral marketing, on the other hand, doesn’t come directly from you; it comes from friends, family members and influencers millennials trust. Therefore, when you want to crack the code for reaching millennials, it starts by changing who’s talking.

How Does Social Media Factor Into Referral Marketing?

Since it connects people who already have some sort of relationship, social media is a natural way for millennials to share their opinions about products, services, companies and experiences. They’re already using the Internet to bank, shop, get news, go to school, date, order groceries, book trips and watch movies — so sharing opinions among peers is an organic extension of digital life.


Case in point: More than half of millennials will make brand recommendations on social platforms, according to The Boston Consulting Group. Whether it’s a Facebook post about a local handyman or an Instagram image that tags a tourist spot, the content that millennials post on social media, both personally and professionally, communicates a sense of social proof to their peers. Likewise, the content that millennials view on social media, both personally and professionally, can influence their buying decisions.

How to Reach Millennials Through Online Referral Marketing

Brands that are ready to tap into the power of millennials need to consider referral marketing on social networks, but how? To give you some ideas on how to target millennials with referral marketing, consider the following:


  1. Try less selling and more sharing. Skip the sales pitches with millennials and opt instead to share real value. What can you offer? Why should they choose you? Communicate this to win them over.
  2. Talk about them as much as you talk about you. Millennials can be loyal to specific brands, but their buying choices are less about the brand’s history, story and offerings — and more about what they get. Focus on how you treat your customers, keep your promises and offer real value, and you make yourself a compelling company to millennials.
  3. Look good. For a generation that consumes media every day — arguably all day — poorly curated content won’t work. Your brand needs highly polished, compelling content that’s attractive, professional and able to get a message across if it’s going to capture millennials.
  4. Ask for referrals, but make it personal. Gather data on your customers so you have a good idea of what someone buys, where he or she is located, how often purchases have been made, etc. Use that information to create personalized CTAs soliciting referrals. After someone stays at your hotel, for example, you might send a personalized email that asks for feedback and offers a discount to anyone the customer refers to you. Airbnb does this with its referral program’ after you book a stay, you’re sent a referral link to share with connections. When someone else uses the link, he or she gets a discount and you get a credit.
  5. Be active online. Before anyone can tag your brand on social media, you need an account. Increase visibility to the millennial market by setting up a social media presence and keeping it active. Use referral links in CTAs on shareable posts. Ask customers to refer friends for contest entries. Look for ways to expand the reach of your brand on social media to draw new clients.
  6. Be mobile-friendly. Most millennials are using smartphones to access the Internet, whether they’re checking Instagram or shopping for a specific product. Brands that want to reach millennials must make all their content mobile-friendly to avoid losing prospects in the referral process.


When it comes to millennial marketing, the name of the game is authentic value. Give this generation actual benefits — both in buying your products and in telling others about them — and you have a recipe for winning new business.

Author Bio:

Shanna Mallon is a copywriter for Straight North, a Chicago-based Internet marketing agency that specializes in B2B SEO, PPC, email marketing and web design.She’s also been a freelance writer since 2007.