How We Can Use Facebook To Target With Precision

It's been several weeks since Forrester released its report on the behavior of young people in the digital space. The report included a particularly damning statistic that only 6% of teenagers want to connect with brands on Facebook. The report sent shockwaves through the marketing blogosphere, making it difficult to stop thinking about that cold, hard stat.

Here are a few approaches you can take to make sure your brand is more effective in reaching the teen segment through social media:

1. Collaborate with an entertainment partner to create relevant content.

Being on Facebook alone doesn't make your brand any more enticing to teens because they don't have to pay attention. On other platforms, they're actively following their favorite musicians, TV shows and other entertainment properties. They're also consuming inordinate amounts of video, music and other entertainment online, and sharing it with friends via social media.

Build relationships with relevant entertainment brands and personalities, whether they're big on YouTube, NBC or iTunes. Find a natural fit for your brand, and produce content together that can be released exclusively to followers of your brand first. This will attract new followers across the board and get teens engaging with you in new ways.

2. Engage teens outside of Facebook and get them to amplify the brand experience with their friends on Facebook.

The walls of Facebook have broken down, so why are we still focusing all of our efforts on Facebook basics? Teens spend an incredible amount of time on Facebook, but when it comes to brands, they're much more likely to trust your content when it's on your own website or other owned property.

Embrace the miracle of Facebook Open Graph and other social sharing tools, and give teens something to talk about. That's the right mixture to get them sharing content and experiences from your properties out to their circle of friends on social networks.

On Facebook, your brand will have a presence in teens' newsfeeds via their friends, weaving into the conversation much more naturally than if you targeted them with a promotion in an engagement ad offering free FarmVille Cash for being their friend.

The key here, of course, is understanding your teen target well enough to know what content will foster a share-worthy experience that will spark digital word of mouth at scale. For more thoughts on how to do this, see approach number one above.

3. Don't ignore teen complainers on Facebook.

While only 6% want to be friends with your brand, the expectations are a little higher in terms of what the broader teen audience wants from brands online. The Forrester report tells us that 28% of teens expect companies to listen to what they have to say on social networks and respond to questions.

They may not regularly follow your brand communications on social media, but they see your Facebook page as a channel to get answers and support when they need it. They're not calling your 1-800 line to wait on hold; they're calling you out in front of all of your followers.

Better make sure your community managers are well equipped to provide fast answers, or at least have a Bat Phone ready for them to get in touch with someone who can help, or your teen contingent may give you a public shaming among their friends. They're certainly not shy about expressing their very confident opinions about how the world (and brands) should work.

Research like the report Forrester put out last month reminds us that Facebook and other social channels aren't as single-minded as they're often painted. Knowing your target audience is still an essential part of any marketing initiative. Let's not forget what matters to our teen audience.

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