A dozen takeaways from the Engaging Youth Conference 2017

A dozen takeaways from the Engaging Youth Conference 2017

What had 11 jam-packed sessions, two engaging chairmen and plenty of pizza and ping-pong? This year’s Engaging Youth Conference, that’s what.

Marketers from brands, agencies and a load of universities descended on London’s Bounce, the home of ping-pong – no, really – for a full-on day of learning. And we were there too. We sent our Lead Social Media Strategist, Dave Musson to report back on the key takeaways from the day, which, because he’s well-behaved like that, is exactly what he did…

Involving your audience drives action

The opening panel was all about trends and featured Anne-Lise Johnsen Robb from Arsenal Football Club, Peter Di-Toro from the National Youth Orchestra of Great Britain, Tom Wright from The University of Lincoln and Tamar Riley from Refinery29. Unsurprisingly, there was unanimous agreement that getting your audiences involved was a great way to drive actions; Arsenal love co-creation in their content, Refinery29 are held to account by a proprietary panel of their readers who answer a monthly questionnaire, while the Youth Orchestra’s future includes plenty more renditions of movie scores (as well as the usual classical stuff too) following a day working with its members to find out what direction they wanted to take.

The University of Lincoln also made the point of building good relationships with your audiences early on – for them, that means putting a focus on new students. That point between A-level Results Day and starting term is when they’re most likely to engage, so make a good impression then, and you’ve got a much better chance of gaining long-term, engaged fans.

Facebook is dead, Instagram and Snapchat continue to reign and podcasts are a growing trend

Next up was a youth panel with actual, living, real young people. You won’t be surprised to know that there were plenty of props given to Snapchat, and even more given to Instagram – particularly since the advent/plagiarism of Stories last year. The other big headline was the proclamation that Facebook is dead and that many young people are deleting it from their phones. Of course, it should be noted that this was the view of these five panel members and not every young person might agree, but it still caused a stir.

Being the audiophile that I am, I was most interested in the panel’s agreement that listening to podcasts is a growing trend among younger people. Doing so was seen as a productive use of headphone time and the Guilty Feminist and TechCrunch were referenced as favourites. Also, podcasts are spreading among this demographic through actual word-of-mouth recommendations – i.e. being brought up in real life conversations – rather than being talked about online. Interesting.

Treat each channel differently

Cosmopolitan’s Social Media Manager, Lauren Smith, made a cracking point when it comes to your social strategy – young people expect different things on different platforms, so you need to find each one’s USP.

For Cosmo, that means relatable memes, conversion-starting news and video on Facebook, nostalgia, eye candy and humour on Instagram and interaction and games on Snapchat (where they are a Snapchat Discover partner). Keep an eye on your analytics and work out what they might be for your pages!

Fewer but better

Before lunch was another panel session, this time on emerging platforms starring Lillian Betty of Time Inc. UK, Hannah Fillis of MATCHESFASHION.COM and Michael Thomas from Twitch. Some important points here were be willing to try new features and platforms to see if they’re right for your brand and your audience – but not being afraid to drop them if they’re not – as well as focusing on quality of content over quantity. Amen to that – less ‘meh’ more ‘yeah!’ please.

Universities – stop trying too hard

After some pizza and ping pong, it was back to it with another youth panel. This time the audience wanted to know what the panel thought of universities’ marketing efforts, and the answer was pretty clear…stop trying too hard to be relatable and down with the kids. Hate to say it, but they know we’re not kids and they know we’re not down with them.


Anyway, the panel said it was fine – better, in fact – to focus on facts about your institution and your courses, as well as the student experience. Young people are actually pretty focused and serious when they’re deciding where to go and study. They also like that university websites look slick and professional – if they want meme culture they can easily go and find a Facebook group.

Also, don’t underestimate the power of physical products – students like having stuff. That’s why third years still go to Freshers’ Fairs. That’s why some students even pretend to be studying in a different town to attend even more Freshers’ Fairs. They want pens and other freebies.

Working with influencers is not the same as a media buy

My highlight of the day was hearing Pandora’s Rob Scotland talking about how to approach and work with influencers in a way that will get past their highly-tuned bullshit filter and result in some awesome work. Essentially, you need to do your homework, know your influencer and be prepared to build relationships with them, rather than just throw money their way – using an influencer is not the same as a media buy.

Rob highlighted one case where he was able to get a highly influential young photographer on board for a campaign for the cost of a couple of flights to London, an Air BnB and a Nando’s because he had taken the time to build that relationship. The week after this campaign, said photographer was shooting Usain Bolt and back to charging fees that would make you fall over.

And once you’ve got your influencer? Get out of the way and let them do their thing.

Great content is, well, great – but is it relevant?

BBC Sport’s Younger Audiences Editor, Stuart Rowson explained how he’s been building a picture of what younger audiences want from his site. Those fans see the Beeb as friendly enough, but fairly placid and not engaging, whereas what they really want is content that showcases sport as entertainment, often in stackable video format. But, the BBC values of informing and educating also still apply.

All of those boxes can be ticked with content such as their Ballers Barber piece, which has a distinctively urban tone and is also educational – I mean, come on, did you know that English footballers put so much importance on hair styling in major tournaments?

What I really liked about Stuart’s session, though, was his point about the importance of scheduling your content at the right times to help it perform its best. It’s not enough to just make cool videos; you need to be pushing them at the right times to match the mood of your audiences. They’re going to feel very different on Monday morning compared to a Friday evening, so how can your content fit around their lives?

For BBC Sport, content is still king, but you also really need to understand your audience and what products you have available at your disposal.

A few bonus bits from across the day

One-third of the most-viewed Stories on Instagram are by brands, so if you’re not experimenting with that medium as a way of reaching younger audiences you’re missing out.

63% of 13-24 year-olds say they couldn’t live without YouTube.

Young people really like discounts.

Under 25s spend 32 minutes a day on Instagram.

BBC Sport gets 20 million site visits per month from their social media account. 20 MILLION.

The success of Love Island over the summer not only showed that younger audiences DO still watch TV, but has also turned ITV2 into the UK’s biggest digital channel for 16-24 year-olds.

The recent adaptation of Stephen King’s IT has made £500,000,000 in the last three weeks. That could buy a heck of a lot of balloons, Georgie 🎈.

Heinz Brazil turned delicious-looking #foodporn posts into actual, edible burgers with a clever campaign.

Check out the Conference’s hashtag on Twitter – #youth_conf – to see what other delegates made of the day. And if you’d like to hear how Net Natives can help you engage with your youth audiences, get in touch with our digital experts

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