By Heledd Straker, Youth Consultant at Harris Interactive.
Social media is big, big, big, right now, with the largest user demographic within the 18-24 age bracket.
The biggest community in history, Facebook, has 300 million active users, of which half access their accounts daily.
People are watching more online videos than conducting Google searches, with micro-blogging site, Twitter, being the world's fastest-growing social networking site.
Despite the popularity of social media, marketers everywhere have been scratching their heads as to how to reach youth through this medium. What many brands have failed to realise is the importance of TRUST to this cohort.
Following these 10 tips, brands may gain the trust and so attention and interest of the youth market:
1. Who are you?
Youth like consistency with social media and will trust brands they see on the many social networking sites they frequent.
Suggestion: Create a social media 'ecosystem', linking messages on multiple sites, whilst being sensitive to the cultural norms and communication styles of each. This consistency will make a brand look more like a 'personality' and so appear more trustworthy. Starbucks is a great example of this, engaging with customers on multiple sites and creating successful cross-social conversations.
2. Who am I?
Young people trust those who they feel acknowledge and celebrate who they are.
Suggestion: Engage youth in conversations and publicly name on your sites those who have said interesting things. When emailing young people, don't ever address them as 'friend' or 'valued customer'. This is as good as calling them 'money-bag, number 75'. Use their name, always.
3. Who are my friends?
A recent report revealed that a more effective way to target social media users is through the communities in which they move, and that people will trust recommendations from friends more than networks.
Suggestion: Establish a group or create an App for youth to join or add. The more they see their friends joining, the more likely they will too. Facebook, for example, has innumerable groups and Apple has recently registered 100,000 Apps, indicating people's desire to feel part of a community.
4. Don't announce – invite
An unspoken contract is made once a young person joins an online group; they will benefit from being in the group and receiving updates and information. This is not an opportunity to be advertised at, as this is definitely not a benefit!
Suggestion: Invite group members to take part in a brand co-creation exercise. Youth are more motivated by feeling they are genuinely valued for their efforts rather than external incentives like money. Prius, for example, has launched an iPhone App allowing users to add changes to a live advert in Times Square, New York.
5. No strings, please
Young people want to feel a sense of control over their environment and fear being 'trapped' into an agreement or group. This includes having to provide personal details in order to join a community.
Suggestion: Make it easy to join and leave a group. The latter may sound counter-intuitive, but 'trapping' members makes them feel a lack of trust. Show them trust and they will trust you back and choose to stay.
6. Is it useful?
Being massive multi-taskers, young people don't want their time wasted.
Suggestion: If brands contact them, it should be to offer something useful. From a tip-of-the-day to a Facebook or iPhone App they can easily integrate into their lives. Pizza Hut's pizza-ordering App was a simple idea, but hugely popular.
7. Is it fun?
Whilst the youth market want social media to be practical and useful, they also want to be engaged – they use social media because it's fun.
Suggestion: Create an engagement that is fun and exciting, such as a 'how clever are you?' quiz or make the aforementioned co-creation exercise a fun activity. Volkswagen's 'Fun Theory' campaign involved online videos, which put the 'fun' back into every day living.
8. Is it funny?
Humourous videos are one of the most popular and shared types of videos on Facebook and YouTube. People want to laugh and will trust those who can make them laugh, as they are appealing to their generational value of optimism.
Suggestion: Consider the target market's typical sense of humour and post messages and videos accordingly. Arby's Roast burger campaign appeals to the ‘intelligent silliness’ humour of its target audience.
9. Can you handle the truth?
Youth today have 20/20 'BS-vision'. If they feel they are being lied to, even by omission, they will not trust that source ever again. And they are likely to pass this message on to their many friends too.
Suggestion: Be honest, pure and simple. If you make a mistake, own up to it and never use asterisks as this implies that the message is hiding something negative. Even better, invite youth to rate your ideas and products, and publish even the negative comments. There is a reason why Amazon is popular.
10. Creativity is key
Youth embrace new ideas and so trust these more than old ones and social media is the best source for such ideas.
Suggestion: Keep a constant eye on social and technological trends to see and predict what youth are interested in, and design similar ideas via your social media presence. There is always room for new ideas.
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