Teaching Old Dogs Seven New Tricks

The MTV Movie Awards are a trending topic on Twitter and the Internet is buzzing with comments on fashion, funny moments, celebs and performances. Chances are pretty good that teens are also talking about it offline and posting comments on their Facebook pages.

Last month, Twitter updated the algorithm that's responsible for determining what's in its Trending Topics list to display "breaking news" and "hottest emerging trends." The change bumped off 16-year-old singer sensation Justin Bieber, which shocked him and his fans. Fans responded immediately by figuring out how to get him back on the list. They started spelling Justin's name as Twieber or Jieber to get around the change. Look now, and Twieber is back on the top Trending Topics list.

Smart move on the part of Justin's fans, and it points to some really important facts about how teens interact through social channels -- and how we can learn from that behavior and apply it to traditional email marketing.

Social Media Behavior #1
Teens feel empowered by social media in a world where they often feel hopeless. When they get angry or find an obsession, they can immediately connect with others and actually do something about it.

  • Email Marketing Response: Email replies should be encouraged. Enthusiastically ask for responses and quickly follow up with your teens when they do. Never have a "do not reply" email address and try to avoid sending automated responses when they do reply.

Social Media Behavior #2
Teens want to be heard.

  • Email Marketing Response: Include Top 10 customer questions and answers, customer-generated product reviews, quotes from customers about products, ratings and reviews from peers in emails.

Social Media Behavior #3
Teens want to give their opinions.

  • Email Marketing Response: Take a cue from the world of blogging and allow teens to talk back to you through comments on landing pages. Even if they aren't comfortable writing, you'll start to build loyalty just by opening the door.

Social Media Behavior #4
Teens have a short attention span and have become addicted to content that is "bite-sized" and "in the moment."

  • Email Marketing Response: Keep your emails short and timely. Your email should be the carrot that gets the horse to the destination. Links should drive them to more interactive pages that fuel the conversation.

Social Media Behavior #5
Relationships take work. If you want to stay friends, you have to stay in touch pretty regularly and build trust.

  • Email Marketing Response: Teens tend to like the regularity of your emails, particularly if there's something personal and timely included in the communications. Include "Forward to a Friend" features and consider developing a custom application that lets the sender add a comment when forwarding.

Social Media Behavior #6
Teens talk, talk, and talk -- and it's not just on Facebook. They go online, tweet and text to stay connected.

  • Email Marketing Response: Teens are open to multiple channels of communication. Mobile is a great channel for real-time alerts on offers and events. Social is a way to stay connected and drive loyalty. Email is a great "connector" among all channels and is the place to remind them of all the great services and content you have to offer.

Social Media Behavior #7
Privacy is a thing of the past. Teens respond to "being real" and "being flawed" more than anything else.

  • Email Marketing Response: Teens want personal, behind-the-scenes information and don't mind if it's a little messy. Bring your teens into the process and give them a "backstage pass" to your business through your email communications. Lastly, always put the unsubscribe link at the top of the email. This says, "I am legit and have information you care about. If you don't want to hear from me, that's cool."

Social media is teaching database and email marketers that it's not just about the data but about building relationships. It's a heck of a lot easier to sell something to someone who likes you. And email marketing is teaching social media mavens that good old-fashioned marketing does still work -- as long as you have something timely, personal and relevant to say.

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1 comment about "Teaching Old Dogs Seven New Tricks ".
  1. deidre sullivan , June 14, 2010 at 4:51 p.m.

    Very smart and helpful piece.