It’s very important to me personally that everyone know: the Schick Hydro 5 Sensitive is a revolution in shaving technology. The five “ultra guide blades” ensure a close shave while the “aloe skin guards” and “hydrating gel reservoir” leave skin smooth and irritation free. Truly, the modern razor has reached its peak in the form of this amazing product.

Companies like Schick are looking for people like me to say things like this. This is because recent research has shown that millennials are most likely to make purchases based on content created and shared by their peers. Millennials have been bombarded by advertisements both online and in traditional media for the majority of their lives and have now mastered the art of effectively filtering out and ignoring them. This knack for ad ignorance combined with the fact that the generation-on-the-rise now spend the majority of their media time on social networks has led brands to reach out to socially influential consumers, who in large quantities can influence our peer-to-peer networks through word of mouth, or rather text of tweet, marketing.

By tweeting, posting photos to Instagram, sharing statuses, hashtagging, liking, and commenting, we’re making recommendations and offering up bits and pieces of our identities into the digital world. You can learn a lot about someone having a 10 minute conversation, but you can learn far more by spending a few minutes Googling their name and finding a LinkedIn profile detailing their career, Twitter handle explaining their sense of humor and hobbies, and a Facebook to show you what they look like, who they spend time with, and everything in between. Brands know this, and are using this information to their advantage.

A year or so ago I signed up for a website called Crowdtap in which I entered information about my demographic. To this day I still spend time answering questions for brands to earn entries into monthly raffles for five dollar Amazon gift cards. Viva wants to know how many of their paper towels I would use to clean peanut butter off the floor. Hot Pockets wants to know what genre of music is most representative of my favorite variety of their microwavable sandwiches. However, through this site I’m not only asked to give my opinions on products to their creators, I’m also persuaded to share them with my friends.

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Most recently I participated in a “Sample & Share” from Schick to try one of their razors. They sent me two packages containing a handle and two sets of (five) blades, one for myself and one for a peer. I was then prompted to share my experience with my friends by posting photos to Instagram and Twitter hashtagged with #SchickHydro and #samp(le).  Because I shared my experience with my online network, Schick gained brand visibility through a means less abrasive than a Facebook banner ad or slightly-sneaky sponsored post. My network, highly likely to include peers who are also in Schick’s target audience, engaged with the content, exposing it to more potential Hydro Sensitive buyers.

This adventure with Schick was not my first or only foray into the wild world of user generated content as advertising. Fellow Thelma contributor Victor and I attended (and digitally shared our experience at) an early screening of Don Jon at which Joseph Gordon Levitt gave a pre-film introduction. There were cards with instructions for what to post and hashtag regarding the film on our seats when we arrived to the theater. I also hosted a party on behalf of Sun Drop citrus soda, where we played branded charade games, with winners receiving branded gear and a limited edition bottle of their #SuprisinglyGood soda. Advertising opportunities are no longer limited to video, image, or audio detailing a product or brand concept.

This new type of encouraged social sharing represents the beginning of a shift in the world of advertising as a whole. Brands giving away their products for free and engaging with consumers on social media gives them a more organic way to share information than paying exorbitant prices for commercials that many will fast forward through on DVR anyway. It’s an exciting time to be the target audience of brands competing for your loyalty and influence, and they’re right to be making the effort as the stats have shown this strategy to be effective. The only mistake they’ve made so far is believing that anyone cares what I personally have to say.