Thought Leadership
  • Content marketing

Mastering millennial-isms: 7 dos and don’ts for writing posts that attract 20-somethings

Anna James
25th May 2017

Let’s face it, millennials own social media. No matter how many mums join Facebook, the 20-somethings will always be the true sharers of the digital world. Therefore, it makes sense that so many millennial-targeting brands try to relate to millennials through social media posts. If done correctly, matching the millennial tone of voice could help build stronger brand loyalty. If done incorrectly, the brand could be exposed for trying too hard and distance itself even further from the desired market.

Millennial internet trends, slang, and phrases are a difficult beast to master because they are constantly changing. The trends could be phrases from viral videos (“Dammmnnnn Daniel”), abbreviations (yolo), or shared beliefs (praising Beyonce).

It’s important for brands to recognise and fully understand the latest trends in order to authentically engage with the generation. Properly using a popular gif to reference a brand’s product will have much stronger benefits than simply throwing a “#yolo” into a caption. Brands must show millennials that they understand them, rather than mimicking the lingo.

Before posting that “relatable” pun, ask yourself:

1 – Is this just a fast fad?

To determine if something is a fad or forever, assess its origin. If it’s a clip from a video, song, meme or gif, it probably won’t last much longer than a month or two. If it’s a behaviour, such as taking selfies or a way of speaking, it is more likely to become a way of life for the generation. Because of the unpredictability of fads, referencing millennial trends is done best on quickly changing platforms, such as Twitter or Instagram.

If you don’t join the conversation as it first becomes popular, you will be seen as a wannabe for trying to hop on the band wagon too late, so be sure to keep on top of everything in the millennial world. Don’t incorporate the trends into any longer-term campaigns, such as print adverts or commercials, because the reference will likely be expired by the time it reaches the audience.

2 – Is it right for this brand?

Just because it’s “cool” doesn’t mean all brands should do it. The number one mistake a brand could make is trying to prove itself as relatable to millennials when it is truly anything but that. For some brands it simply does not make sense to try to speak like a 20-something. Brands should only make references if they relate to the product and service. Don’t join the conversation unless you have something relevant, new and interesting to contribute.

Here are a few dos and don’ts to keep in mind for mastering the millennial tone.


Use a popular phrase and relate it to your product or service


This phrase has been repurposed to mean many different things, but Jimmy John’s correctly used it to relate to its product.

Incorporate popular memes, photos and gifs into posts


Be careful here: incorporate them correctly or don’t do it all.

Speak like a millennial without using any stereotypical buzzwords


Millennial language is a state of mind, not a formula of acronyms and emojis. Learn what millennials value, such as ready-to-eat food delivery, and show that you understand their sense of humor, which is often a bit sarcastic or quirky.

Engage with millennial followers


Millennials like to be acknowledged, so a brand that can come back with a relevant comment to a post will gain extra brownie points. It is better for brands to appear more like people and less like corporate robots.


Try to connect ideas that don’t naturally work


References should be natural and easily understood.

Use outdated lingo


Bestie, bff, swag, yolo, omg… just avoid them all. The time for those is long gone.

Mimic millennial behaviour


This combination of a selfie and a hashtag is way too forced.

Keep in mind…

You must really know your audience before you try to use any millennial-isms. Your target audience should be entirely millennial-focused to reduce any references being lost in translation. Also, remember that not all millennials are alike and fit the stereotypes. While some will appreciate a cheesy pun, some will turn their nose away from it. Clarify the target’s personality before hitting “post.”

If you want your brand to master millennial media, the best thing to do is pay close attention to what is being said. The sharing platforms have a constant stream of posts showcasing everything that millennials are talking about, and the best way to learn the language is straight from the source.

Example of how to use a currently popular gif:

Brands: We are so hip and relatable! Millennials are #bae *excessive emojis*



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