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Millennials: Technology = Social Connection
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Millennials: Technology = Social Connection

Where’s the strangest place you’ve ever used your smartphone or tablet PC?

For Millennials, the real question is where haven’t they used their devices.

While the Millennial generation indeed founded the social media movement, having been born directly into a new era of technology between 1977 and 1995, their interests, backgrounds and aspirations span well beyond what’s listed on their Facebook pages. This generation’s digital tendencies, however, means that marketers and brands need to step up their games in order to keep up and engage with them.

And these 18-to-36 year-olds are worth the effort. Why? Because they are 77 million strong in the U.S.—on par with Baby Boomers—and make up 24 percent of the country’s population. And while many are still climbing the income ladder, this group’s size and age range highlights its long-term purchase power.

Have Tech, Will Travel

The Millennial generation, also known as Generation Y, is the first to come of age with cable TV, the Internet and cell phones, so technology is essentially baked into every Millennial’s DNA. In fact, when asked what makes their generation unique, Millennials ranked “Technology Use” first (24%), followed by “Music/Pop Culture” (11%) and “Liberal/Tolerant” (7%). In contrast, Boomers ranked “Work Ethic” as the most defining characteristic of their generation.

Given their fluency and comfort with technology, Millennials have more of a positive view of how technology is affecting their lives than any other generation. More than 74 percent feel that new technology makes their lives easier, and 54 percent feel new technology helps them be closer to their friends and family.

And perhaps that’s why they’re always glued to their smartphones—devices they use more than any other generation. Just how inseparable are they from their devices? An astounding 83 percent say that they sleep with their smartphones, and they’re more than 1.5 times more likely to own an iPhone.

Don’t Call, Friend Me

Being hardwired with their smartphones and other devices means Millennials can connect their two worlds: one real and one virtual. They are heavier Internet users than their older counterparts and most view Mark Zuckerberg, founder of Facebook, as the face of the generation. That said, Facebook is the platform of choice for 72 percent of the generation, a trait that means their lives are an open book for all to see.

There’s no such thing as too much information with this bunch. Thirty-two percent of the younger half (age 18-24) use social media from the bathroom and 51 percent of the older crew (age 25-34) take time out of their work day to use social networking at the office—more than any other age group.

Access to technology and devices is fueling Millennials’ ability to stay social 24/7. Younger Millennials access social media sites more on their laptops than mobile devices, while Older Millennials log in more on mobile apps. Regardless of device, both groups are checking in socially between 20 and 21 hours each month.

Beyond the Status Updates

But Millennials aren’t just using technology to connect with friends. Their comfort level with digital has them engaging online in ways other generations are just warming up to. For example, Millennials like to handle their finance themselves, and they primarily do so online. And their savvy extends beyond balancing their check books. Older Millennials are 28 percent more likely than average to buy mutual funds online. And, both younger and older Millennials are more likely than their older counterparts to engage in online trading. They’re also the heaviest Internet bankers and most likely to purchase insurance online.

Money is a key focal area for Millennials, as they’re coming of age in the most dire economic climate since the Great Depression. And that means they’re price conscious and deal savvy. But they’re not clipping coupons from the Sunday paper the way their Boomer parents do. Rather, they’re using apps to seek out the best deals and promotions. Deals actually account for 31 percent of their shopping dollars, and many of the top apps used by Millennials are either retail or discount focused, with Amazon Mobile and Groupon topping the charts.

For additional insights, download Nielsen’s Millennials: Breaking the Myths report.