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I think that even Bernie Sanders was surprised at how much money his campaign raised. While he was not able to secure the nomination for president, he continues to draw an enthusiastic group of supporters to him.

He would like to leverage that support into a continuing political movement. However, this week half of his staff became disillusioned and walked away from his new outreach project.

Their disillusionment was not that they stopped believing in the cause … or in Bernie. The problem was that the man that Bernie put in charge of the political outreach is older and steeped in the politics and technology of yesterday. His idea was to solicit donations from large corporations and other rich donors, and then use the funds for an extensive television ad campaign. He was unwilling or unable to understand what had made Bernie’s run so successful.

The young staff rebelled.

They understood that much of Bernie’s support was from millennials. These folks, now in their twenties and thirties, are less likely than older folks to be watching television commercials. Even when they are in front of a television, they are also on the Internet, and surfing social sites like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram. Reaching this audience is all about two-way communication and engagement. It requires a specialized skill set – one that Bernie’s guy doesn’t understand or appreciate.

Whether Bernie sorts out his personnel problems or not, there is a larger message for anyone running a campaign – or a business: Even people outside the millennial cohort consume media very differently today than even a few years ago.

In the not too distant past, when families watched television, they sat through the programming, including commercials, until the show was over. If a product or service caught their attention, they might call the company to hear more about the service, or visit the store to see the product in person. Today, the first stop for anyone who sees an interesting commercial is the Internet, including a check of the website, blogs and other social sites. They want to know what the company is saying and what is being said about the products and services of the company. If their friends have a positive opinion, they will probably share that opinion.

We live in an increasingly connected world – just look around you the next time you are in a restaurant, mall, city street, or even your own dinner table (unless you have banned phones at the table). It is difficult to find someone without a phone in their hand. Smart companies will take a page out of Bernie’s book and open the lines of communication with their target audiences.

Here are a few things reasons that millennials loved Bernie in the primaries:

  1. Bernie loved Twitter. He often tweeted through the political speeches of other candidates and was extremely active on several Social Media Sites. His staff built on that. He now has over 3 million twitter followers. Almost 5 million people also like his Facebook Page. These likes translated into campaign donations.
  1. Values Matter to Bernie. Millennials value integrity and want to follow people who share their values. Bernie’s message resonated with millennials, and he was rewarded with their enthusiastic loyalty.
  1. Bernie understands the crippling effects of student debt. Millennials are often struggling to pay off their college debts. They are a frugal bunch and know how to budget their money – Bernie seemed to share that mindset and offered a solution.

Business owners, who can engage millennials while tapping into their values, will also be rewarded with loyalty and sales, without investing in an expensive television ad campaign.

via GIPHY