Millenials Young AdultsCompanies across America are creating management and marketing campaigns targeted to one demographic: Millennials. Generally considered “entitled, indulgent [and] needy,” millennials are also the largest demographic group in the country, making them prime candidates for businesses looking to sell or hire. There’s just one problem: Millennials aren’t real.

That’s the gist of New York Times columnist Farhad Manjoo’s latest offering, “Corporate America Chases the Mythical Millennial.” Manjoo warns that companies seeking to engage those born between about 1980 and 2000 as either customers or employees need to look beyond the stereotypes and avoid placing an entire generation into one narrow category.

Millennials are the most diverse generation—by race, ethnicity, religion and income. Manjoo notes that “a young immigrant working three sharing-economy gigs is likely to look at the world very differently from a trust-fund baby who’s tending his Tumblr in Brooklyn. Yet only one of these stereotypes tends to make it into media accounts of millennials.”

How can companies avoid the stereotypes? By using the data gathered from social media and smartphones, etc., such as purchase and employment histories, social media updates, and even credit reports.

For Manjoo’s full column, see “Corporate America Chases the Mythical Millennial.”