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Toss around the term “Millennial” in your favorite search engine and it brings up perceived characteristics attributed to the generation. There’s the how-to on working with them, why not to hire them, how they are narcissistic and selfish (yet still love/rely on their families), and most of all, their “always connected” obsession.

The U.S. age group varies according to source, but the generation is roughly composed of those born between 1981 and 2000, according to Pew Research.

Millennials are a generation of tweeting, SnapChatting, friending, checking-in, texting, selfie-taking diverse individuals interweaving the Webs of cultivated collective online profiles. Digital use is not just an action, like jogging or eating; it is a lifestyle. The U.S. Chamber of Commerce Foundation’s 2012 report The Millennial Generation Research Review cites 80 percent of millennials sleep with their phone next to the bed.

Comfortable with technology and used to constant emails, can the old-school electronically mailed message stand out midst the noise? Marc Apple, owner and chief strategist at Forward Push Media, said that no one is on social networks 24/7, but across generations most people check email every day.

“In my opinion, email is the original social media,” Apple said.

Joshua Lingenfelter, director of marketing for Clowes Memorial Hall of Butler University (and a millennial born of the early 1980s!), said that in part, the growth of social media is tied heavily to email.

“If you look at Facebook and Twitter today, they are very different than they were years back. In addition, you have even more new platforms that have come about like Instagram, Pinterest and SnapChat.” Lingenfelter said. “In the midst of all this change and new innovation, one thing remains constant. You need an email address to create an account on all of them. As these tools change, improve or go by the wayside, but email remains.”

So, millennials are still receiving emails, but what keeps them from easily app-swiping to delete the mail, and encourages an open and action?

1. Content is key

Optimally, all email components work in beautiful branded harmony around the starring player, content. From the meat of the message, brands can then craft creative, compelling subject lines, headers and a user-friendly layout.

“Content by far is what a millennial is looking for when a business reaches out to them via email,” Apple said. “It’s just not any content, it must be relevant and relatable content.”

Lingenfelter suggests that a short and entertaining video linked in the content is often more successful than just a text and image email.

2. Test for the best

Research states that Tuesdays and Thursdays are the highest volume days for email sends. Additionally, subscribers are most likely to open an email after 12 p.m. However, industry averages may not apply to a demographic of mobile-attached millennials.

“Every brand’s audience is different, which is why I am a big believer in testing, and then testing again,” Apple said.

3. Check that list twice

Open rate statistics can be misleading if a recipient list is out-of-date. All the correct time and day research in the world won’t help you if an individual hasn’t opted-in or filtered your sender address as “spam.”

Valerie Camarda, marketing consultant of Marketing Sense, reminds marketers that an opt-out link helps maintain list hygiene and is considered honorable email etiquette. Isn’t that what all millennials just want: respect?

4. Make it mobile

Roughly 50.3 million millennials are mobile Internet users and over half (49 million) of the 86.2 million strong generation use a smartphone, according to a 2012 eMarketer study, How Digital Behavior Differs Among Millennials, Gen Xers and Boomers.

Not only do brands need to ensure the CTA is clear, when the millennial on their iPhone or Android clicks through, don’t disappoint with a poor mobile user experience or unrelated information.

“Consider that more often than not, your email will be read on a smartphone or tablet,” Camarda said. “Your message must get to the point quickly and provide useful information that the reader needs, wants or values.”

5. Click and share

Lingenfelter has noticed that millennials and older generations may both open the same email but interact with it differently.

“Older generations tend to click on ‘view as a webpage’ and review the entire email in their Web browser and then forward directly to friends,”  he says. “Millennials tend to review the email quickly on their phone, find the info they are excited about and then share on Facebook.”

Social share buttons specific to the content, not the entire email, make increased engagement rates more achievable. This also allows a message to reach a larger population than the original recipient list.

6. Special is better

Sometimes referred to as the “Me Generation,” millennials respect brands and companies understanding who they are on the Web. Whether it’s a presale opportunity based on previous purchase history, a special sale discount code or entertaining extended content, extras work wonders for encouraging engagement. Lingenfelter added that “exclusive” is a key word in his work for increasing open rates.

In your experience, what has worked best in marketing to millennials? Share your thoughts in the comment below.

Image credit: Eugenio Marongiu/Shutterstock