Move Over, Information, It's The Engagement Age

In case you haven't heard, teenagers have officially abandoned all means of traditional media. Television? Done. Radio? Forget it. Newspapers? Who reads? OK, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration. In fact, a Nielsen report published just this past summer suggests that TV watching is actually up with teens and Internet use is actually lower in teens compared to adults.

Hmmm ... so does that mean that, as rEvolution's VP of digital marketing and youth culture, I should start looking for a new job?

I don't think so.

Yes, traditional media isn't dead. Nevertheless, I would make the case that more teen users are gravitating towards both brands and websites that offer custom, digital content. For example, I wouldn't gloss over the fact that the same Nielsen study shows that teens recall ads better when watching shows online than they do on television. Or that 37% of all U.S. teens using Facebook now access the web on their phones. So while traditional media is doing just fine and the death bell is premature, there's no denying that the media universe for teens is expanding at an alarming rate.

With all of this in mind, let's take a closer look at one of the hottest trends in media among teens, custom video content. Here are the top three things to think about in regards to best practices in digital media and custom content distribution:

1. Think about the messaging. If a brand is going to take the leap and engage with teens, remember that this is still an information age. That means if teens wants something, they want it now. Teens (and most tech-savvy adults I know) expect to have access to information and get results immediately.

That means brands have to be engaged, but more importantly, listening. Be prepared for criticism and tackle it head on. Also, use the right personalities and platforms to convey your brand messaging. Let's look at Twitter for example. Recent numbers show that only 16% of Tweeters are under the age of 25. Does that mean Twitter be-damned? No. Twitter, used, say, for a mobile marketing tour, is an incredibly engaging tool. Most importantly, teens want to be engaged on their level. So if it's not credible, you might end up doing more harm than good regardless of the social media platform you use.

2. Think about the production value. It goes without saying that as a brand, you want to work with a company that can produce professional broadcast quality content. But this doesn't mean you have to break the bank for production. Let's take event marketing for example. Taking video of an event extends the life of an event exponentially. (For instance, check out this quick video from the Hometown Heroes skateboarding tour.) It also increases engagement beyond traditional means, i.e., beyond the constraints of television. It also allows for content to be easily circulated between users as well, which is just as important in this engagement age.

3. Think about the distribution channels. The right content channels will extend the life of your video, i.e., short, well-produced, relevant clips will continue to generate views and have a lasting brand effect. Video distribution doesn't mean just posting on YouTube, Twitter and Facebook. (Makes me think of the recent Conan O'Brien Year 2000 bit, "YouTube, Twitter and Facebook will merge to form one super time-wasting Web site called YouTwitFace.") There are literally thousands of video channels serving niche audiences. How is the video described and tagged? All of these factors will impact the video's positioning, reach and impact.

There's this perception that teens are always looking for the next big thing. But the next big thing isn't always the right thing for teens, or anybody else for that matter. Marketers need to think of traditional media, social media, digital marketing, etc., as engagement. This age of engagement is also an age of show me. As in, show me the results.

Tags: teens
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1 comment about "Move Over, Information, It's The Engagement Age ".
  1. paul myers , October 12, 2009 at 8:48 p.m.

    Hey Jim - great post! Couldn't agree more. Even with smaller budgets - event videos and communication targeting youth via twitter, facebook, myspace and other methods can still engage this demographic even if stats tell us these consumers don't use whatever particular media channel at any given time.

    For example, we just finished the rideNSS Tour which visited over 50 skate-parks nationally and even though kids don't tweet (at least as far as the research shows) we used Twitter, Facebook, Myspace and other media channels to drive awareness of the tour.

    Even though some of the video posted was shot with an iPhone and not edited at all, kids tuned in.

    The tour was a huge success for the client - proving you don't need huge budgets to reach Gen-Y through these media channels.