Five Ways To Connect With Millennials & Generation Y Using Instagram (With Examples)


If you’re a marketer with an eye on Millennials as your target audience, ignoring Instagram is a huge mistake. The entire concept of visual marketing was kickstarted by Instagram and has created a shift in how people communicate and ignoring Instagram would be like ignoring email in the 90s. Instagram is an opportunity for brands to connect with a highly influential audience and drive real results.

While Snapchat has been able to generate adoption amongst the younger demographic, Instagram has become the go-to social network for young adults and teens in the United States. Based on recent reports from Business Insider, over half of teens and people in their early twenties are actively using Instagram. With 83% penetration among upper-income teens, ahead of even Facebook, it’s clear that Instagram is a channel that can also help in driving real results.

So how do you tap into this two visual giant to achieve success? How do you connect with an audience that can see right through advertising and wants brands on Instagram to connect with them in an authentic way? Here are a few examples of brands doing it right and a couple key insights that you can leverage to make your Instagram Marketing efforts work:

Share Time Relevant or Specific Content

American Express - Halloween

What’s going on this week that everyone is talking about? Is there a Holiday? Is there a celebrity scandal that has everyone talking? What’s going on in the wonderful world of Pop Culture? Whatever it is, think about how you can combine that with your brand and deliver a marketing driven message.

In the American Express example above and the Lyft example below, you can clearly see that these brands understand the power of reactive storytelling on Instagram. Reactive storytelling is the process of taking a top of the mind idea and combining it with a brand driven marketing message. In these two examples, the brands took halloween and combined it with their product to deliver a highly engaging post that their audience connected with.

Lyft - Halloween Content

Instead of sitting back and waiting for the next great celebrity scandal, you should plan for holidays and big events well in advance. For example, if you know that a certain Celebrity is pregnant and that their audience lines up well with your own, take the time to create an Instagram post to celebrate the birth of their child with a unique angle like LuLu Lemon did for the Royal Baby when they welcomed “The Fresh Prince” into the world:

FreshPrince LuLuLemon

Leverage Culture Relevant Ideas

Beyond the reactive storytelling aspect of the LuLuLemon post highlight above, their ability to leverage a culturally relevant idea was also key to driving engagement on Instagram. The nostalgic reference to The Fresh Prince was a key factor that helped this post generate buzz and get people talking. It’s a tried and tested method that has been known to work for years. Here’s another example of a brand using Nostalgia on Instagram:

TMNT - Pabst Blue Ribbon

Anyone who grew up in the 90s would resonate with this Instagram post from Pabst Blue Ribbon. The Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles are one of the most iconic 90s cartoons and one that this audience would clearly connect with. This act of injecting Nostalgia into your Instagram posts is a great way to drive engagement and spark conversations.

Nostalgia is one of the most powerful phenomenons that a marketer can use to drive engagement. People love the past. People obsess over the past. People connect with brands that allow them to be sent back into time and experience their childhood or youth all over again. If you can tap into that insight and leverage it when developing content for Instagram, you will likely be able to see an increase in engagement and conversations.

Taggable Posts That Are Enhance Relationships

Inspiration - Oreo Instagram

One function of Instagram that brands are just starting to tap into is the idea of driving more engagement through tags found in the comments. In the Oreo post above, you can see a handful of comments on the right hand side that are nothing more than people tagging their friends on the post. As a result of these tags, their friends will be notified that they were tagged on something and then when there, they’ll be met with this nice message from Oreo.

It’s the modern day way of telling someone you like them. I know, it sounds silly but it’s a trend that can be found on almost any post shared by a brand that is about love or relationships. Here’s another one this time from Godiva:

Godiva - Tagged Content Instagram

Help your audience communicate how they feel towards others and they’ll essentially do a bit of advertising for you. While you may only have a handful of followers on Instagram, inspiring them to bring their own followers to your page is a great way to drive growth. Consider the various messages that could hold some relevance to your brand but also enhance your followers relationship. You never know, with this approach you could be the difference between a break up and a make up.

Embrace The Young Forever Attitude

Pabst Blue Ribbon

The mindset of a being young and carefree, no matter your age is one that resonates with the audience found on Instagram. It’s an attitude that demonstrates a lifestyle that has no regard for authority and is rebellious against the status quo. It’s this attitude that you need to inject into your content along with a tone and aesthetic that resonates with this generation.

Understanding that this generation no longer views sex as taboo and is open to what many older folks would consider crude, is a clear opportunity to connect with them. You don’t have to look very far to see that the most popular content on Instagram is often visuals and videos that demonstrate an ideology surrounding freedom, sex, material items, fun, vacations and luxury.

Huckberry - Water Jump As seen in the photo above from the Huckberry Instagram account, extreme experiences also drive engagement as people look at them and immediately feel a sense of joy and exhiliration. We as humans love witnessing extreme feats and this type of thing lines up perfectly with the care-free and forever young lifestyle that this generation connects with.

From an aesthetic perspective, it doesn’t take long to scan through a handful of posts on Instagram to see a common thread in how images look. It’s the “Hipster look” that everyone is embracing that makes Instagram users stop while scrolling through their feeds to consume the content and potentially engage. Here’s an example of this look from the folks at Taco Bell:

Taco Bell - Instagram Advertising

In preparation for their breakfast line launch, Taco Bell turned to Instagram to build awareness of their new menu items among 18-44 year-olds and did so by embracing the care-free mentality of their audience. The brand’s creative team produced a series of sponsored photos depicting breakfast among friends, each image capturing the brand’s youthful, free-spirited ethos through natural staging and a retro, sun-bleached color palette. The results from the campaign:

  • 12.5 million 18-44 year-olds in the U.S. reached across a four-week period
  • 29-point incremental lift in ad recall for people who were repeatedly exposed to the campaign—nearly four times higher than the control group and nearly five times higher than Nielsen’s average for online advertising

Show What’s Happening Behind The Scenes

Another type of content that is interesting to this audience is content that that shares a behind the scenes experience. This group of people are thirsty for transparency and an inside look at how things are built or done within your organization. It allows them to feel more connected to your brand along with the feeling that being a follower of your  Instagram account offers a bit of exclusive footage and material.

Here’s an example of how Vogue took their fans behind the scenes using Instagrams Hyperlapse program:

A 14-sec tour of the Vogue offices. #hyperlapse

A video posted by Vogue (@voguemagazine) on

If your brand has a strong connection with your fans, people will be excited to see the team behind your snaps or products. Embrace it! For years, brands and organizations have built their businesses on stories of 43 secret herbs and spices instead of giving the inside scoop. Today, people are hungry for learning what goes into your product and who the people are working behind the scenes to make it great.

Now that you know all about the types of content that resonates with this audience, you are ready to start. Getting started is really the most important step in this entire process. It’s an audience that is already active and already waiting. It’s now on you to determine whether you’re going to allow other brands to connect with them while you sit on the sidelines or step up and start driving real results for your brand.

If you haven’t started yet, you should consider reading the Ultimate Guide to Instagram. It will help you reduce your learning curve and ultimately give you a leg up on the competition.