Is Motivating Teen Interaction like Herding Cats? Not if you've got the right CTAs

In a recent post, we explored how engagement has replaced views as your most valuable metric. Recall the key best practices for interacting with a teen audience: communicate with and not at them, appeal to their sense of self, and always monitor and adapt with trends. This is a solid starting point, but it’s not the whole journey.

There’s another side to the engagement equation: the audience. You may be ready to engage and have every tool to do so at your disposal, but if your audience doesn’t interact with you, you’ve regressed to broadcasting instead of conversing. That’s why Calls-to-Action (CTAs) are so important to social marketing strategies.

Ask any parent today and they’ll likely tell you how hard it is to get a teenager to do anything. One could argue that this is hardly unique to this particular generation of teenagers, but rather, part of the universal adolescent experience. Still, consider how this demographic is burnt out on ads and skeptical about marketing, and you have a unique challenge. You must create intelligent, strategic CTAs, so let’s look at a few fresh approaches that will help grow your passive teen viewers into active brand participants. 



1. Let teens flaunt knowing more than you do

The only thing teens love more than showing off is getting to show off knowing more about something than adults. As you work to engage with them, this is the root of one of the most effective CTAs. Try explicitly asking your audience to demonstrate their superior knowledge in an area that authentically connects to your brand. Pass them the mic and let them express how much more of an authority they are than you. By granting this permission to flaunt subject-matter expertise, you’re sparking their interest and motivating their action. Additionally, you’re handing them the kind of digital affirmation opportunity that GenZ highly values, and that reinforcement often drives them to share their moment of glory to further their perpetual social-currency building. 

2. Appeal to their interest in pop culture 

Another seemingly universal teen truth is that this demographic is all about pop culture. Inspect nearly any time period and you’ll see that it’s teenagers consuming and driving the conversation about the latest movies, music, celebrities and current events. With this in mind, the logical CTA that will get a teen to jump speaks to this interest. Begin your CTA with a statement, or better yet, a question, that references something from the current pop culture landscape. A word of caution: don’t weigh in unless you know what you’re talking about – think Hillary Clinton and her Pokemon Go reference. The truth is, you don’t need to have an opinion or appreciate whomever or whatever is in the social media spotlight. Your teen audience will bring their perspective and carry on the conversation.

3.  Encourage their natural creativity and individuality 

I do hope you haven’t totally forgotten your own adolescent struggle to discover, then express, the individual you are. While teens today are going through the same developmental process, these digital natives now have a much larger platform on which to project their identity. They also place immense value on their digital persona, carefully curating the image that they project throughout social channels. Those of us who build CTAs around this motivation to “Know Thyself” per Socrates and “Express Yourself” per Madonna will inspire our audience to share things about themselves and their opinions to boost their personal image, and therefore, contribute to a successful conversation around your content.

4. Incentivize action

While using a clear CTA to let your audience know what you want them to do is a big step in catalyzing the specifically-desired behavior, teen audiences may need a little more incentive. As in the “what’s-in-it-for-me” type of incentive. Yes, teens are often incredibly self-centered, and if they don’t see how an action relates to and even benefits them, it’s that much harder to elicit it.

One thing marketers can do is put the value proposition right in the CTA. Instead of “check out our new videos,” try, “be the FIRST to check out our new videos.” You can also consider offers, contests, and other types of perks. GenZ has also been cited as more oriented toward wanting to affect positive change in the world. Leverage that desire to impact social change through engagement “barters” – for every “like” you’ll donate XYZ, etc. 

GenZ is much like the generations that preceded it. The youngsters want to be acknowledged, they want to display who they are, they’re passionate about their ideas, and about how they come across to the world around them. It’s just that now this happens on social networks and connected devices in front of multitudes of eyeballs. 

Get started creating enticing CTAs for this audience. Get creative, dare to be bold. Above all, make sure you stay genuine to your brand and allow your audience to take action, because digital has made this a skeptical group, and their participation is more easily lost than gained.

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