Marketers and brands alike can’t seem to stop talking about “Millennials.”

Young adults born roughly between the years of 1980 and 2000 are getting pretty sick of it.

With insulting descriptions such as “self-involved,” “lazy” and “entitled” typically thrown into the mix, it’s easy to see why.

But Millennials are in that advertising “sweet spot” of age 18-35, wheras Gen X (the generation before them) is getting … how do we put this nicely … a bit behind the times.

And as we head into 2020, businesses seeking more customers on Instagram should learn to speak to this key audience without insulting them.

Today we’re going to talk about how you can target this demographic without looking like you’re trying too hard.

Millennial (adjective): Mil·​len·​ni·​al | \ mə-ˈle-nē-əl  \

Also known as Generation Y, millennials have a new approach to life. They are seeking out a work-life balance that has eluded prior generations.

Targeting millennials with your marketing can be tricky. Raised in the Internet Age, Millennials are incredibly tech savvy and idealistic, and tend to view anything salesy or insincere with scorn. They are well-versed in navigating vast masses of content and offers on a daily basis. If you give them the “hard sell,” they will turn their back on you.

Your advertising efforts are likely to be ignored unless you find creative ways to pique their interests. Approached correctly, you’ll find that millennials are eager to buy, share, and champion your brand among friends and social media followers.

Why Instagram Is Better Than Facebook

Facebook has an almost equal percentage of Generation X users as it does millennials. But while Facebook has become the main social hub for Gen X, for millennials, this is where they keep updated on old school friends’ news — from a mostly non-interactive distance, meaning they tend to “lurk” (not engage all that much).

And this is the key to understanding why Instagram is where marketing to millennials can be effective. Instagram is very much the domain of the younger generation, driven by images and videos of the newest fads and trends, the most popular styles, the latest entertainment news.

What Does This Mean For Business Marketing?

A brand that wants to reach millennials could hugely benefit from a targeted Instagram campaign. If your business doesn’t have the time or resources to focus on both Facebook and Instagram and you want to focus on the 20-35 age group, Insta is where it’s at.

But as we said: While the millennials generation is accustomed to life online, they don’t want to feel like they are being advertised to. They want to feel valued. They want to engage.

Remember: Instagram is a platform whose sole purpose is fun, so if you treat it like LinkedIn or Facebook you’re going to have a bad time.

This means you need to give them young adults something of value. Give them something that builds a relationship with your brand. Keeping up to date with Instagram’s style is key here: it’s about in-the-moment photo sharing.

A brand’s images on Instagram need to have a real-life feel to them — products and generic stock photos won’t cut it here.

It’s been found that 32 percent of Facebook users engage with brands regularly, compared to 68 percent who engage regularly with brands on Instagram. If you can get it right, an Instagram campaign can really make a difference to your business.

To get some ideas of how this can be done successfully, here are some companies killing their Instagram game right now:


@airbnb | 4.4m followers

airbnb instagram posts

Startup darling of the twenty-teens, AirBnb knows how to reach millennials on Insta.  Their photos showcase beautiful homes, interesting local hosts, and popular tourist destinations.

Ben & Jerry’s

@benandjerrys | 928k followers

ben and jerry instagram marketing

Young adults today are more healthy and fit than ever, but that doesn’t mean they don’t love their ice cream. Ben & Jerry’s Instagram is just like that one friend who always has a funny comment. Each of their posts draws attention to their product but does so with captions that are as clever as the names of their ice cream flavors. Many of their posts come with a healthy scoop of social consciousness, too—something that millennials respond to.

MAC Cosmetics

@maccosmetics | 22.8m followers

mac cosmetics instagram

Close-ups of MAC’s glamorous models leaves its followers thinking the possibilities are endless with this brand (genius). Many of their Instagram posts are “regrams” from famous makeup artists (so most of the marketing work is being done for them). Each caption includes a list of the exact MAC products used to create the look, taking the guesswork out of customer shopping. How easy is that?

Evolving Your Instagram Game

As the audience and users of Instagram evolve, so too will marketing patterns. SMBs (small and medium businesses) should embrace the change and reach a wider consumer base. As ever, the online social sphere is constantly changing, and marketing strategies will continue to react to what happens.

Here are a few things to keep in mind.


On Instagram, hashtags give you a way to categorize your posts, reach a target audience, and (most important) help your target audience find you. Instagram users who find your posts through hashtags are more likely to engage with your post because your post is exactly what they wanted.

Not sure which hashtags to use to target millennials? These 45 hashtags are often used along with the word ‘millennials.” Just remember, only use relevant hashtags so you don’t look like you’re trying to speak to too many people at once who aren’t interested in what you have to say.

Itching to get your brand out over Instagram, but still aren’t sure exactly how to do it? No problem. Drop us a line and let’s chat about how we can help you.

Think Mobile

Millennials connect with each other and the world around them via their mobile phones. Your business will have to meet them on their terms, with mobile-optimized promotions and images optimized for an attractive and enjoyable Instagram experience.

Teach, Don’t Sell

Millennials, like all adults, are constantly being sold something. There’s so many offers and options that it becomes easy just to block it all out.

To break through you have to provide content that is truly unique value. Crafting interesting content shows off your expertise and gets readers to come back to you to as a resource. This is a great, low friction way to sell your product. When the time comes that a loyal reader needs your product, you’ll be at the top of their list.

This approach goes hand in hand with inbound marketing tactics like blogging, social media, and SEO. Create great content that is worth sharing, put it out there, and the 20-somethings and 30-somethings will come.

Be Authentic

Building a brand is about more than a fancy logo and website. To gain millennials’ trust you have to be human, honest and authentic. Shocking, huh?

A critical part of branding today is evoking specific, positive emotions about your company. Think of a major company like Apple, and you immediately think of words like, sleek, modern, and sophisticated. Nike wants everyone to participate in health and sports. Even though top athletes wear their shoes, you can too! This is evident throughout their ads and company culture.

So what are your company values? What image is your brand trying to portray? These concepts should permeate your website design, your promotions, your social media strategy and even how you interact with customers and prospects. So being honest and authentic in your marketing and advertising will go a long way towards attracting their attention.


Instagram allows you to get in front of millions of potential viewers, visitors, buyers and influencers of all ages and demographics. Be creative, fun, and try different things. Focusing on these tips will help you get in touch with millennials, but also help you attract buyers and influencers from across all demographics. If you do it right, you’ll get the added bonus of viral and influencer marketing to further boost your reach.