I haven’t done an Influencer Interview in a while so I thought I’d touch base with a great social media planner who I follower on Twitter – Amanda Mooney from Edelman Digital in Chicago. She’s got some amazing insight into how young people today are interacting with brands and social technology. Here are 5 key thoughts I’ve pulled out of the interview:
1. Kids ‘master media’ in under 4yrs so brands will have to continue to evolve their media/creative strategies
2. Youth today are both Entreprenuerial and Defiant.
3. Brands which fuel youth passion points invariably win
4. Forget campaigns, create sustainable means of engagement by earning the right to be in the conversation
5. Help young people belong and be significant (echoing the words of Graham Brown from Mobile Youth).
How would you describe American youth in a sentence or word right now?
Can I have two? We’re not waiting for anyone’s approval at the moment. There’s a new sense of entrepreneurism and a sense of defiance that’s touching otherwise “ordinary” young people with nothing more than a bit of talent or ideas about the world and a good Wi-Fi connection.
How do you think social media platforms have changed the way brands ‘engage’ with today’s youth? Any learnings from your experience?
There’s an entire generation growing up now that never has to call your 1-800 number for customer care or to file a complaint. It’s never been so easy for us to take action if we have an issue or a question that needs to be addressed. According to a Kaiser Foundation report, children are also now growing up spending more time creating and consuming media per day than they’re spending in school: 7.5 hours. They’re spending more time than most marketers spend in their full time jobs. Consider the adage that it takes 10,000 hours to master a craft and kids can “master” media and communications in under four years. Brands have to realize how smart we are about media and their messages.
Which youth brands are ‘getting it right’ when it comes to engaging youth and why? Any brands that really are struggling?
I’m only 24 and very much still starting out in the industry but in my opinion, the brands that are really struggling at the moment are investing millions in flash and trash campaigns and spending a huge amount of effort to buy up “impressions” rather than changing their businesses at the core to address what’s happening in our world and how we’d like to engage with brands moving forward. It’s not enough to simply throw up the image of a celebrity next to your product and start asking for our last few bucks when rent’s due or pushing for our last bits of attention. At a time when unemployment for 18-29 year olds in the US is currently around 37%, the highest in three decades for our age group, you have to consider that the cost of one banner campaign on a major network could help a young person start their business, fund their entire education, provide a service that fuels a cause they’re passionate about. I can’t believe what’s being wasted on purely promotional copy, taglines, creative, product shots, paid celebrity tweets. Pay those celebrities to be a sounding board for your community and provide perspective and access! I know what it’s like to come from a family that lives paycheck to paycheck, what it’s like to pay for my own education and be in my first few years out of school while the economy’s still in a giant mess and I’ll say that one of the things I love most about our industry is the possibility of giant global brands using the vast resources at their disposal to help fuel the passions or needs of their customers.
Graham Brown from Mobile Youth has a great quote that’s stuck with me. He says, and I believe, we want very simply for brands to play two roles before we’ll be open to hearing your marketing message… “Help us belong and help us feel significant.”
Want to “get it right”? Take a second and check out the projects on Kickstarter.com and think about how you can partner with these brilliant young creatives to support their projects and establish a partnership that fuels your own brand as well. Get in touch with Amanda Rose (@amanda on Twitter) and partner up with Twestival, have a chat with Abby Falik of Global Citizen Year or Charles Best of DonorsChoose or check out CauseCast and SocialVibe to see how your marketing efforts can help us give back to the causes we care about. Instead of interrupting our playlists on MySpace, use media on the homepage of MySpace Music to help promote fresh, young bands in the community. Check out Jane McGonigal’s talk at TED on the possibility of leveraging our favorite outlets for play to reinforce a deep sense of citizenship and figure out how your own products can serve a greater good in our lives. Have a chat with all of the great people like @richardatdell who make it possible for us to get personalized service, when we need it, on our own terms and figure out how you can put this into practice in your own organization.
Are you seeing any new youth subcultures or tribes emerging which marketers should pay attention to?
I was particularly taken by two bits of information recently. The average age of a first-time mom in the US is now 25-years-old and according to Census projections, the “traditional American family,” married with children, is now the minority. You have a generation of new moms who grew up digital, are in their first years out as young adults, who may or may not have the support of a traditional household structure. They also increasingly live further away from their parents as well. For many of them, their online community is a vital space to find information and support.
I’m also reading everything I possibly can about youth in China as well. At 500 million strong by 2015, I wouldn’t call them a subculture by any means, but marketers should invest considerable time and energy to understand the subcultures that exist within the youth population in China. It’s an unprecedented time of change, connection and youth empowerment. I particularly love NeochaEDGE for a daily perspective on brilliant young creatives in China.
What have you learnt about ‘global youth culture’ in your travels/experiences? Is there even such a thing as global youth culture?
First, I’ll say that most of my experience to date has been largely observational online and has come from research as well but I’m desperately interested in moving overseas to experience and study youth culture in other parts of the world.
Overall, I think that we’re all excited by the sense that we have a collective power and the possibility of connection on a global scale, but it would be a mistake to lump us all together. For perspective on the sheer size of global youth, consider that, according to the CIA World Factbook, the average age of the world’s population is 29. Youth engagement can certainly ladder up to a point of global connection in a powerful way but make no mistake, your efforts have to find local relevancy.
3 tips for connecting with youth?
1. Listen to us and figure out how you can earn the right to fit into our lives before you spend hours in a boardroom thinking about how you can push a message or product to us. Look at all of the resources in your network- your connections, your media, your power of voice, the access you may have to partners… and find a way to make them work for us, not just your own marketing objectives.
2. Get out of a campaign mindset and budgeting structure and create sustainable means of engaging us. Certainly there can be key periods that spike engagement but you can’t just float in and out of our lives whenever it’s convenient.
3. To reiterate Graham Brown’s point, “Help us belong and help us feel significant.”
What’s the most important piece of advice you give clients you work with when they come to you looking to use social media platforms as part of their marketing mix?
Social media can’t just be part of your marketing mix. It will and very much should, shift your organization at its core. R&D, customer service, CSR… what’s happening in the space is fundamentally changing our lives as consumers and it will fundamentally change your business as well.
What do brands need to know about you and your friends in terms of wanting to have a conversation with you?
Don’t talk down to us. Don’t assume that you immediately have the right to be included in our conversation. You have to earn that. Don’t, don’t assume that you naturally *get* us. There’s nothing worse than that. Be honest. Expect us to respectfully disagree or point out when something’s not right. Understand that pushback from us isn’t definitive, necessarily negative or final. It’s a dare.. a dare to listen to what we’re telling you, good or bad, and honestly use it to make your brand better.
Also, I love this tweet from @leeclowsbeard. “Most people don’t have enough time to interact with their kids, let alone your brand. Respect that.” The same goes for us.
Your favorite blogs or brands and why?
Ahhh that’s a long list. But here are a few that I love because the writers are brilliant and I can always trust these sites for regular inspiration in my work:
· Three Billion
· Ruby Pseudo
· Mobile Youth
· Kitsune Noir
· Design Mind
· Jonathan Harris’ Today
· The Selby
· Wooster Collective
· Alain de Botton on Twitter
· Future Perfect
· Dazed Digital