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Beyond Millenials: Engaging the next generation

Generation Z, also known as the iGeneration, is reaching its tween years and, if its anything like the preceding generations, will be a huge buying force. Recent studies show that $51 billion is spent by tweens every year with an additional $170 billion spent by their parents and family members directly for them. 20% of girls ages 12 and under regularly visit online shopping sites, and 13% of girls regularly buy products online. The question facing companies with tween and teen-related products and services is how best to reach them?

Be Social

No one’s really sure if Generation Z starts in the ‘90s or at the year 2000. What everyone does seem to agree on is that both of these generations, but especially the younger Zers, are incredibly social. To market to them effectively, you need to know which social media tools they use, what they use them for, and when they’re connected.

According to a study by the Pew Internet & American Life Project, 93% of teens in America have a Facebook account, but only 12% have a Twitter handle. In the UK, Facebook still reigns supreme among teens’ social media favorites, but Twitter is also popular.

If your company doesn’t have an active and engaged Facebook account, with at least one employee dedicated to updating and sharing content everyday, you’re missing out on the number one way teens engage. If you’re in the United Kingdom, make sure your Twitter profile is providing them with Retweetable content, too.

When deciding your social media marketing strategy, it’s important to keep in mind in what age range your target audience falls. The ways in which teens use social media tends to depend on their age. A company offering sports clinic summer camp packages may want to differentiate its marketing strategies by age range: 14 and under, 15 - 16, and 17 and over. This will allow greater flexibility in content, delivery, and schedules.

Adapt Marketing to Age Group

Older teens tend to use Facebook to send instant messages first and foremost. Second is the sharing and liking of content posted by friends. This makes marketing to them fairly simple: post great content to your Facebook page, Promote the most engaging and important stories, and back up those impressions with social advertising.

But younger teens like to use social networks for gaming. While developing social games can involve a production budget, its also an awesome way to score a direct hit with tweens and pre-teens. For example, a hospital launching a healthy kids initiative might develop a Facebook game where players get points for throwing healthy food items into an avatar’s mouth, or engage them with a trivia-based game where all the questions relate to nutrition and fitness. Focus on easy playability and a big dose of the fun factor to increase its chance of going viral.

Make it Mobile

Teens prefer their mobile phones to just about any other platform. When their phones are taken away, they actually exhibit signs of distress. If the goal of your social marketing is to drive traffic to your website, this means your website better be mobile optimized. 

Mobile apps provide spaces for kids to interact with each other and your brand. Unlike social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter, apps have no competing brands vying for young users' attention. Event calendars, promotions from partners, games and in-app chat all encourage tweens to check-in and hang out within your app's platform. 

What Generation Z’s mobile addiction also means is Opportunity -- if you integrate text message marketing (SMS) to reach kids on their preferred platform of engagement. SMS marketing is ideal for continued engagement, that is, keeping users who are already customers engaged with your brand between purchases. Messaging is key here: Don’t blast kids with sales and deals every time. Hit them up with some fun knowledge or reminders for events.

Time of Day Matters

Remember the typical school day when you were in junior high and high school? It started well before 8 a.m., and ended long after 5 p.m. If you’re only sharing content with your teen audience during workday hours, you’re missing out on prime engagement time. Schedule your updates, tweets or text messages to go live when kids are getting ready for school or in-transit, and then again later in the evening when teens are home and enjoying free-time. Weekends are also a great time to reach kids. Parents, too.

You can easily determine when your audience is most receptive to social marketing by checking their activity. When are they commenting, sharing, and liking your content? Create a timeline of their activity, and share during the high points.

Be Honest, Do Good

Pre-teens are brand loyal, but they believe that loyalty is a contract between the brand and themselves. If a company exhibits a certain personality online, it better be able to back that up in person. This is good marketing practice for any company and marketing to any age, but Generation Z is far more willing to walk away from a brand that they feel deceived them. Make sure your brand is authentic, that it truly is a representation of your company’s mission, vision, and culture.

The iGeneration is also incredibly socially responsible. They’re more likely to buy eco-friendly products or support brands who give back and take action. If you provide travel or adventure programs for teens, for example, engage their philanthropic spirit by volunteering at a beach clean up or a tree-planting ceremony. But again, it has to be authentic. Do good things because it’s the right thing to do, and the right thing to do for your business. Reap the benefit of the Generation Z approving of your actions.

Family Friendly Marketing

Generation Z is being raised by Generation X and Y parents, who are comfortable with technology. Remember that $170 billion spent by parents for their teens? Don’t miss out on the buying power of the parent. Create a marketing plan that targets both teens and parents individually and includes a number of shared assets.

Share & Tell

The more of your content that is shareable also encourages teen traffic. Include galleries of photos for Pinterest users; create motivational messaging graphics they can easily post on Facebook; and perhaps even start a Tumblr of content related to your brand. This generation has been curating content to create an online identity since they could type -- make it easy for them to include your company in that collection.

Keep it Simple

They’re nicknamed the iGeneration and the Net Generation for a reason. These kids are being constantly bombarded with information. Their time is divided among countless applications -- not to mention real-life stuff: school, sports, work, family and friends. The amount of time they spend interacting with your brand depends in large part on your ability to intuitively understand their behavior once they’re on your site. Forget the bells, sparkles, and dancing characters -- Generation Z grew up on User Interface Design like no other generation before. Keep it simple, make it easy, and they’ll thank you with continued traffic.

What’s Next?

Kids grow up so fast, don’t they? Before you know it, Generation Z will be past their teens. But Generation Alpha -- predicted to be the largest generation to date -- will be even more technologically focused and socially engaged. How they use their tech smarts and social savvy is yet to be determined.