Screenshot of Emporia Kansas Main Street Instagram wall painting which can help to attract Millennials and Gen Z to Small Business Saturday

Screenshot from the Emporia, Kansas Main Street Instagram account – a wings painting that helps attract Emporia State college students into the downtown.


In a recent Main Street America member forum post, someone asked the group how to attract Millennials and Gen Z to Small Business Saturday, which is an annual event that encourages people to shop independent, locally-owned small businesses on the Saturday after Black Friday.

My digital marketing education and training business, Tourism Currents, has been a Main Street America member for a number of years. Attracting tourists is only part of the Main Street focus on downtown and commercial corridor economic development, but we love the organization’s mission and vision.

Here was the original forum question:

With Small Business Saturday® just around the corner, we want to get a conversation going about your plans for the big day! Share what your community has in store or comment with any questions you’d like to ask your fellow Main Street-ers about Small Business Saturday.

***This year, we are especially interested in your ideas about how to bring younger shoppers (think Millennial and Gen Z) into your local stores! Let us know your bright ideas in the comments.***

I thought I’d share my forum answer here, on Sheila’s Guide…

To better connect with not only Millennials and Gen Z on Small Business Saturday, but all generations, merchants and Main Street partners need to have their digital houses in order.

That means that, at an absolute minimum, they must take care of what Tourism Currents calls The 2 Things:

  • A claimed, completed, and up-to-date Google Business Profile including correct operating hours (part of what feeds Google Search and Google Maps) and,
  • An active Facebook Page. Keep in mind that for young folks, “Facebook is for old people,” but many do have accounts there and will check a business Page to see if it is active/if the business is still open.

Next, to specifically reach a younger demographic, businesses need to do what’s always been true – meet prospective customers where those customers spend their time, both online and offline.

Also please remember that the oldest Millennials are in their early 40s. Many have families, and even money to spend. 😊

According to the current Pew Research Center Social Media Fact Sheet, the top digital platforms where younger folks spend the most time are (in very rough order) YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, and TikTok.

No, you don’t need to be on all of them. Try for two.

First, repurpose videos you’re already making by uploading them to your YouTube channel. This helps with long-term SEO.

Then try one more social platform – the easiest one to learn for many businesses is probably Instagram. Don’t forget to do searches on Instagram for customer posts from store locations, in addition to responding when tagged in someone’s IG post or Reel or Story.

Claim your business/brand name on the other platforms, though, so that someone else can’t get it. Say in the bio “Not an active account” so people who find you don’t expect up-to-date posts.

In many cases, Millennials and Gen Z use those other platforms as search engines – in addition to Googling – so be clear in account bios and posts where you are located, specifically what you sell, that you are independent and locally-owned, and that Small Business Saturday is a terrific opportunity for customers to support their town’s local economy.

What did I miss? Obviously a decent digital presence is just a start…

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