Reaching Out To Young People

In all the social media training that I deliver I ask people who they are trying to reach out to and target with their social activity. There’s always one group mentioned in response, young people!

We all know that young people consume a lot of their media online, on mobiles and through social media.  It’s true for lots of older folk too, but not all of them. And there are generational difference between who digitally savvy 30s and 40s consume media online compared to teens and those in their 20s.

Because most brands and organisations aren’t being run by young people, there’s often a disconnect when older people try and work out how to reach out to younger people. What do young people find useful and interesting? How are they consuming and discovering content? What are they sharing themselves?

So what do we know of young peoples’ media consumption, here are a few headlines:

–          Body shock! When watching TV, older people like moods to stay relatively steady, whereas younger people want mood changes. And shocking mood changes at that, think Game of Thrones beheadings and last minute salvation from doom! Programmes like GOT and Bodyguard are pretty gut-wrenching, evoking physical reactions that younger people relish.

–          Consumers turned creators – Generally speaking the younger people are, the more they expect to have an interactive part in the content that they consume online. The rise of Stories (on Instagram, Snapchat and Facebook) and TikTok/, spaces full imaginative, engaging content and young people, really shows how consumers are using their phones to turn into creators. Gamers also are a perfect example of the type of people who want an active role in their media consumption – we see people not just gaming, but watching each other gaming, expressing themselves and meeting people through their media consumption. Just have a look at Twitch if you’re not familiar with the incredible width around gaming culture. Netflix’s recent forays into interactive storytelling via Bandersnatch and You Vs. Wild are other examples of content aiming to meet this need.

BBC Stories on Instagram

–          Authentic Talking heads – Young people don’t always have a lot of autonomy and look to media to bring that into their lives. They’ve also grown up in a world of fake news and want to hear authentic views from real people. Increasingly if you look at BBC News’ most watched video content for social spaces (as seen here on Facebook) where they want to reach young people, it’s wildly different from what you’ll see on the Ten O’Clock News where they reach out to older demographics. For example, we no longer see people interviewed about an issue, we see them front and centre of the content voicing their own opinions and often creating the content themselves, the BBC Stories project exemplifies this style. BBC’s The Social and its spin-offs are another great example of this approach, coupled with its User Generated Content strategy which allows content ideas from young people to shine, rather than traditional top down content commissioning. Another area we can see this point surfacing in is influencer marketing. Although shiny, Insta-perfect influencers are still widely being approached by brands, we’re also seeing the rise of “real” influencers who are sharing the difficulties and more ugly side of life – people like Scummy Mummies and Father of Daughters.

–          Content That Guides The Mood – Many young people say they are stressed and programmes like Friends, with its rise in popularity on Netflix, are a way that they unwind. Think of it as a gentle, funny massage where there aren’t too many ethically complex issues and a relatively strong moral compass guides the characters. Friends = The perfect antidote to today’s noisy and complex world, perhaps! It also typifies peoples’ appetite for nostaglic content, because it’s safe, comforting and what we know, rather than confusing and troubling. Some people talk about relatable content drawing in younger people, but for me this goes without saying that young people are interested in the things which young people deal with – dating, leaving home, festivals, going out, body image, and many more.

–          An On Demand Content Ecosystem, Obvs… – It almost goes without saying, but younger people often aren’t tied into schedules at all. Their content world exists on demand online, rather than in a TV schedule. They consume content from an ecosystem or network of content rather than things from one place broadcast or published at a specific time. It’s one of the reasons that TV production companies are summoning up formats like Love Island where there’s a reason to watch live, baking social media into the programme itself is a great way to engage younger people and create an appointment to view.

Top tips: If you want to put yourself in the shoes of younger people:

–          Start watching Stories on Instagram and make your own, they’re super easy. You can see the Stories of accounts that you follow – but @historicroyalpalaces and @BBCNewsbeat usually have a few pinned to the top of their accounts.

–          Download TikTok and start searching the content there (search hastags for content you’re interested in and see how it compares to other social platforms), you might be surprised at how involved much of it is!

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