Three Millennial Tech Myths Busted

on March 27, 2017

A core thesis we have about the future of technology here at Creative Strategies centers on a younger demographic. Because of that, much of our continued research on the industry leads us to do dedicated studies of the Millennial demographic to help us understand the unique function of technology from this cohort. We recently completed a study spanning hardware preferences, software behavior, collaboration techniques, communication techniques, and more specifically on the 18-24-year-old millennial segment. This group is largely still in college and about to enter the workforce with an established set of collaboration and cloud-based workflows. An essential part of our study was to understand how this demographic is using the combination of hardware, software, and cloud services to be productive.

As part of our study, we discovered some interesting data which busts many myths associated with this demographic. For reference, this study was taken by 1,446 respondents within the millennial demographic and over 90% are 18-24. This study also spans over 40 college campuses.

Myth #1: Millenials are Done with Facebook
Perhaps one of the most popular myths is millennials don’t use Facebook anymore or, if they do, it is not central to their social media usage or an app that gets used daily. We asked millennials which apps they use on a daily basis. To our surprise, Facebook is still king. 89.35% of millennials still use Facebook on a daily basis. This percentage was the highest of all the apps we tested. Next on the list was Snapchat with 76.36% using it daily followed by Instagram at 73.79%.

While all current data we have suggests engagement time may indeed favor things like Instagram and Snapchat over Facebook, there is no doubt millennials still have Facebook as a daily part of their behavior. The more we study how millennials and even Gen Z use different social networks, we observe how each seems to serve a purpose. None appear to replace each other entirely but they all offer something a little different. This demographic has no problem juggling them effectively for their needs.

Myth #2: The PC is Dead to Millenials
Perhaps the most interesting hardware discovery our study made was how important the PC still is to this demographic. Through a variety of questions and behavior scenarios we tested, we came to the realization the PC is still the form factor this demographic uses and prefers to get “real” work done. While this demographic is certainly the most comfortable using their smartphone to do things that classify as “work”, more so than older demographics, they still prefer their notebooks for a variety of productivity, creativity, and entertainment use cases.

One of our questions tested a specific scenario to understand how they may weigh hardware preferences in a particular situation. We presented them with a scenario where they were going on a trip and were going to be working on a project while they were traveling. On this trip, they could only take one device for all their needs. We asked them to choose if they would take their notebooks, smartphone, or tablet. We were certain it was a no-brainer and the majority would want their smartphone. To our surprise, 42.46% said they would choose their notebook. The smartphone barely beat the notebook with 42.92%.

The scenarios we tested showed the strength of the laptop form factor when any level of “work” or “school project” was involved. Based on many of the write-in comments on why they choose the device they did, it was clear that, had there not been work involved, there would have been no contest with the smartphone as the clear winner.

Myth #3: Face to Face Meetings are not Desirable
The strength of myth is questionable but I hear it frequently from senior managers at large corporations. Many Silicon Valley tech companies which employ large numbers of millennials also note how prevalent video conferencing has become with this generation. There is no question the idea of face-to-face meetings may be suspect or questionable with this demographic — they feel it is a waste of time. However, our study shows they still view face-to-face meetings as the most efficient way to collaborate.

We examined the preferred collaboration methods at different stages of a project for millennials and found face-to-face meetings were viewed as the most useful and preferred for both the planning and brainstorming part of the project and the check up/review stages. Collaborating through things like Google Docs, or a messaging client like iMessage were sufficient to keep making progress. However, when it mattered at critical stages, nothing replaces a good old fashioned meeting–even with millennials.

The more we study different demographics, the more we see quite distinct behavior patterns depending on their life stage. Most of the “myths” I’ve heard are observations of either young millennials or Gen Z who have much more time on their hands. The contrast is quite stark once you observe millennials in college, entering the workforce, or in their late 20s already working and starting a family. Technology remains constant at all stages. Technology is almost always the answer to many problems or challenges with this demographic. However, the ways it is implemented and used may vary widely by life stage and this may always be a constant as well.