I had a client who was very engaged in working with me. She responded to my emails. She liked my facebook posts. She was a coached client who did the work I assigned and got results. She even mailed me a thank you card once — a real snail mail card. I considered her a true fan.

And then one day, she stopped.

No more facebook likes. No renewal of services. No response to emails. Gone. Like a ghost.

Wooooo, spooky — ghosting.

Ghosting can be spooky alright.

Ghosting is when someone (your customer or potential customer) disappears. They don’t turn up IRL (in real life) and they don’t turn up digitally either. They simply leave without a trace. And never come back.

Sometimes ghosting is simply an act of removing oneself from the digital environment temporarily. Stop answering text messages. Cease to post on facebook (gasp!) and don’t even try the new filter on snapchat with the walrus tusks (I mean, seriously! It’s so cuuute.) This type of ghosting is simply a digital blackout. This is not necessarily a bad thing. We all ought to consider this sometimes as a digital detox, I think. They come back eventually.

I’m talking about the kind of ghosting that is directly specifically at YOU and your business.

You have been unfriended and cut off digitally — and in every other way. Someone who has ghosted you, is OUT. They most definitely don’t open the emails you send them and under NO CIRCUMSTANCES will they answer a phone call from you or your business.

This seems simply but often befuddles non-millennials. Why have they simply left? What went wrong? Why can’t we talk about it? How can I solve the problem if I cannot address it?
Generation X (my generation) deals with these kinds of challenges differently. When we don’t like something, we challenge it. We ask a zillion questions. We keep pushing to find a way to get what we need. We let others know that something is wrong. We may be difficult and unreasonable — but we are engaged!

Millennials however do not push back. They simply walk away quietly and without a word. They ghost. They figure they will find another solution somewhere else. And they do (probably) and someone else will get their engagement and their business.

Why do millennials ghost?

Because they don’t like confrontation.

Because they have been manipulated and maneuvered too many times in the past.

They have highly calibrated bullshit detectors and something has set theirs off.

They don’t trust you.

What does this mean for you as a communicator? As a marketer? As an entrepreneur?

This means that you need to shift your communication style to not trigger a ghosting. This means you need to make it safe for a millennial to give you feedback — in fact you must elicit it.

Three quick rules to avoid a ghosting:

1. Don’t use pressure tactics, fear tactics, or bait and switch type tactics (even if they are all true in your mind).
Millennials hate that shit. They may tolerate it for a short while, but you are skating on thin ice. Even if those tactics work in the short run — they will leave you with minimal sustainable returns.

2. Don’t promise too much too soon.
The bullshit detectors are going crazy. Your product might really be THAT GOOD, but if you seems too proud, too eager, too certain — that is a GIANT RED FLAG.

3. Ask for feedback. Gently.
Millennials (and people in general) need to know you are actually listening and care about their experience and opinions. Co-create. Give choices. Explain why. Figure out what the objections are likely to be up front and address them head on in your introductory materials. otherwise you might never get a chance to address them.

While I like a good ghost story as much as the next guy — none of us want ghost stories inside our business. Millennials are the prime consumers of most of your businesses. We must work with them and learn to appreciate their gifts and talents in order to thrive in a business model with them at the center.

The key to a successful business is true and authentic engagement. You can’t engage with a ghost (unless you are a medium).