Teens and College Students Ignoring Twitter. Part 2: Now what?

051109_7In part one I reviewed current research indicating that teens and young adults are pretty much ignoring Twitter. It’s pretty surprising stuff, especially in light of Twitter’s meteoric rise and social media credentials. But if the analytics and research aren’t deterring you from using Twitter to reach the youth market, well … good for you. I like your moxy. Let’s figure out how to do this together.

Now I’m not saying it’s impossible to use Twitter to reach youth, but just know that it’s going to be an uphill climb.

How difficult?

Think about this: Larry King, Barbara Walters and Oprah are now on Twitter. Not exactly youth culture icons. This makes things a bit more challenging. Nevertheless, here are three ways you can use Twitter to pump up your youth marketing efforts:

Number one: Give stuff away
Nothing drives the youth market to action quite like free stuff. The challenge is how to fill in the time between your contests and giveaways. This depends on your reasons for using Twitter, which should be defined within your social media strategy plan.

If you’re using Twitter as a way to educate, you can tweet helpful tips for a few days and then ask a question based on one of your tweets. For example, your tweet might look like this:

For a $25 gift card, what does the term APR stand for? Enter to win at [tinyURL here].

If you’re using Twitter to promote a product, giving away free samples through tweets may help create a buzz. Here’s an example:

First 10 followers to respond wins a free case of PowerDrink. Enter to win at [tinyURL here].

Giving away free stuff seems to be the strategy of choice for youth-focused radio stations trying to build a  Twitter presence. One example is KROQ in Southern California. They offer concert ticket giveaways, as well as up-to-the-minute news on local concerts. It’s everything a teen music fan needs.

On the musician side, Trent Reznor (AKA Nine Inch Nails) mixes tour information and “life sharing” with giveaways such as backstage passes and free music. Here’s an actual example of a Trent Reznor tweet announcing a giveaway:

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Click on the link and it takes you to this landing page which carries the NIN brand.

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Notice that not only can you enter the contest, but you can also download free music samples. The only requirement? You have to provide an email address. I think this part is crucial because it helps the band nurture a relationship outside of the confines of Twitter. The band can now use email to deliver marketing messages if they desire.

Now back to Twitter, you’ll see the next tweet closing the contest.

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And finally, the winners are announced:

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Notice the time stamps on the tweets. The entire process happened within 12 minutes.

Number two: Start a conversation with mom and dad
Since the average age of Twitter skews older, marketers stand a better chance of talking to parents. Bypass the youth market altogether and focus on moms and dads. This is great news for brands that rely on co-marketing. For our credit union friends, yes, I’m talking about you.

I am a firm believer that marketing a financial relationship to youth must have a parental component involved. Simply ask anyone under 25 why they opened an account with a particular bank or credit union, and 8 out of 10 times you’ll hear something like: “my mom (or dad) opened it for me.”

Start tweeting with mom and dad in mind. Develop a Twitter strategy that speaks to their needs, which is simply to secure their child’s financial future. Be a friend, a partner and an invaluable resource for raising money-smart kids. Share links to articles about parents and money. Help them save for college. Be available to answer their questions. Talk about your community efforts to raise financial literacy. Let them know you care. Be sincere.

Here are two sample tweets from Sarah Newton, who helps parents build relationships with their teen children. Both provide links to informative articles for parents:

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These tweets do a great job of helping Sarah establish trust between her and her followers.

Number three: Become a better youth marketer with Twitter.
Although I’m a bit critical of the many ways brands are currently using Twitter, I’m not a Twitter hater. Quite the contrary. Twitter has become an important tool in my youth marketing arsenal. So it’s with the utmost respect for Twitter that I recommend the following:

Don’t use Twitter to speak to the youth market.
Use Twitter to LEARN about the youth market.

If you take the time and energy to learn how to use Twitter as a research and inspiration tool, I promise you will become a better youth marketer. Be a part of the conversation that is happening right now about youth research, case studies, best practices and other valuable tidbits.

The best way to get started is simply to begin following people who are involved in the youth market. To give you a little push in the right direction, here are five of my favorite Twitter users who help me tap into the youth market on a daily basis:

carol_phillips
YPulse
teenscene
sarahnewton
KidScreen

Check out their tweets and see who they’re following,  and so and so on. And of course, you can follow me for my perspective on current youth marketing issues.

Another way to get started is by using a Twitter directory such as wefollow. Search any topic and you’ll find hundreds (or even thousands) of Twitter users with similar interests. Read their profiles and begin following the ones that interest you. One more tip: for a well-rounded look at the youth market, follow people outside your primary industry, as well as from within.

Now it’s your turn
The beauty about Twitter is that it is still be explored. It’s a quickly evolving medium and in all honesty, us marketers are still trying to figure it out. So in the spirit of cooperation that is Twitter, I turn it over to you. What do you think? How can marketers use Twitter as a youth marketing tool? And feel free to use more than 140 characters.

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