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My advice to the candidates on connecting with millennials

Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump couldn't be further apart on the political spectrum. But one common group of voters is incredibly excited about them both, and it's the most coveted demographic in the country: Millennials.

By avoiding the doublespeak of most politicians, Sanders and Trump – two candidates the establishment didn't see coming — are doing well in the polls. Both have tapped into a communications style that makes millennials want to listen and engage. When it comes to that demographic,authenticity and directness always wins. At 40, I am not a millennial, but in my position as CEO of Zillow Group, I lead more than 1,000 of them –making up two-thirds of our company – every day. Their creativity, fast-thinking and need for utter transparency have made Zillow Group the company it is today.

Spencer Rascoff, CEO of Zillow
Adam Jeffery | CNBC
Spencer Rascoff, CEO of Zillow
"My employees don't need me to be as hip and cool as they are – they want me to be their leader, and that means staying authentic." -Spencer Rascoff

The presidential candidates know they need to win the hearts and minds of millennials. As of 2015, the 75 million millennials living in the U.S. have officially eclipsed the "baby boomers" as the nation's largest living generation—making up most of the voter population.

To earn their confidence and vote – and to ultimately lead them effectively – the candidates need to keep a few things in mind.

Stay authentic: Millennials value directness.

Lofty rhetoric from the podium might have inspired previous generations, but millennials just want to be talked to like a friend: honest, straight-forward, authentic and direct.

You don't have to actually be a millennial to relate to millennials. My employees don't need me to be as hip and cool as they are – they want me to be their leader, and that means staying authentic.

I am direct and honest, and, above all, I'm transparent with my employees. All employees have my cell number and text me questions frequently including during Q&A sessions at company-wide meetings. I don't have a personal office, just a desk out in the open space with everyone else.

Leaders who are unfiltered realize that if we don't have an answer to something, we don't fake it. It's better to be brutally honest and direct, because that's how people want to be communicated with nowadays.

Stick to the truth: people may not always like what you're saying but at least they know you're telling the truth.

The politicians that are able to break through and really connect with the electorate speak the straight-up truth even when it's not politically advantageous. For example, in a recent interview, Trump didn't back away from his support for universal health care, even though it could cost him votes in the Republican primary; Sanders owns having socialist leanings rather than running away from them.

Be accessible: Social is our new world. Embrace it.

Politicians need to meet millennial voters where they are.Use social media to show us your authentic self. Millennials can tell when it's you tweeting, and when it's your staff. Take some time out of the day to personally post on Facebook or send out a tweet. Your fans and followers can feel that personal connection through social media.

I am a social CEO. I don't embrace social media by making sure I meet a quota for number of tweets in the day. Nor do I let a staffer tweet on my behalf. I use Twitter authentically to engage with my customers,employees and with influencers. I am constantly sharing what's on my mind and the time I spend with employees. I learn a tremendous amount from these interactions and people learn a tremendous amount about me. In addition to the issues they care about, millennials are responding to a different leadership style than what we usually see in our politicians.

Baby boomers grew up during the post-war economic boom, an optimistic time filled with heroes. But millennials as a generation have seen an awful lot, from the tragedy of 9/11 to the economic calamity of the Great Recession, and that has made them ultimate realists.

On top of that, they've come of age with social media, which has created a world of complete transparency, so they expect transparency from their leaders. Trump and Sanders seem to get that. I'm not endorsing either of these candidates and both of them may fade from the national political stage as the primaries winnow down the field, as has happened to other "straight talkers" before them (Howard Dean in 2004 and Ross Perot in 1992) —but their millennial-friendly style is not going anywhere.

It's all about being #unfiltered.

Commentary by Spencer Rascoff, chief executive officer of Zillow Group, which houses a portfolio of real-estate sites, including Zillow and Trulia. He is also the co-author of "Zillow Talk: The New Rules of Real Estate." Follow him on Twitter @spencerrascoff.