Thursday, July 10, 2008

Performance Insider: Tools For Effective Teen Engagement In Social Media

Tools For Effective Teen Engagement In Social Media

THERE ARE PLENTY OF AVAILABLE contact points with teens on social sites (friends, gifts, games -- you name it), but no proven method of engaging the throngs of teens hanging out in those increasingly popular virtual malls. What has worked for some to create brand engagement has typically been highly custom efforts, typically labor-intensive and not logically replicable for different brands or verticals. And since 99.8% of users don't click standard IAB ads on social sites (source:, conventional wisdom says there must be a better way of engaging teens in this space.

The answer to organized engagement starts with the considering the teen audience's agenda, not the marketers'. Forget calling them the "Y Generation." These teens are the "What's in it for me?" generation, trained to expect to get whatever they want, whenever they want it, for free (thank you Google, Facebook, Scrabulous on down) and complain if it's not. What's a marketer to do? Give it to them. Give them a reason to want to spend time with your brands, and do it within the rules of the social environment.

Here are two examples of innovative models that have cracked the code on giving something to teens so that they'll choose to spend quality time with your brand:

1. "Gifts with Benefits"

• Virtual gifts are the equivalent of the smallest possible online greeting card, letting users shoot virtual beverages, pets and other items to their friends as a means of online communication. Sponsored gifts are free (to users), and a growing peer-to-peer advertising engine for marketers like Ben & Jerry's, Axe and Sunkist. But the interaction with the brand is limited to the virtual gift delivery. It's a touch point, but not a very deep one.

• The latest innovation: marketers can add real-world value to those gifts being shared peer-to-peer. Instead of just a virtual gift, teens will be able to pass branded coupons, discounts and free samples to their friends, with marketers paying on a "per transaction" basis.

• Brand Networks, Boston, has introduced a platform that lets Facebook users send coupon codes and sample offers to their friends. From Brandweek 6/13: "After closely tracking the Facebook gifting phenomenon for six months, Brand Networks CEO Jamie Tedford estimated there will be 200 million virtual gifts given via Facebook in the next year: 'That, to us, felt like a real business opportunity."'

2.Hearst-owned's "Lock and Key": CPA-based engagement for marketers.

• Teen users who want to upgrade to premium site services are shown a short-list of age/gender appropriate teasers for advertisers. It looks much like an application directory on Facebook and asks the same thing of teens - choose something because it interests you. For example: ? Wrigley's Winterfresh gum is looking for 13-17-year-old males to sample a new digital download tool on their site. ? EA's SIMS wants female 15- to 17-year-olds to watch a 7-minute interactive video for a new SIMS game. • Users who choose a brand then hit a link that launches that partner's site, leaving It's similar to launching an application within Facebook, except the user leaves the host site and can go anywhere, do anything.

•The teen participates in the marketer's activity, then returns to to receive their premium upgrade.

• Marketers pay on a CPA basis. If teens don't choose their brand or don't complete their desired engagement exercise, there's no cost.

 Both lead gdfeneration examples here go far beyond data collection; they represent how applying a direct response mindset to the social space can be a winning formula for truly engaging teens, within their rules and in their space.

By starting with the teen mindset of "What's in it for me?" you can answer the question of how to focus their attention on you.

Amy Gibby is president, The eCRUSH Network (,, a subsidiary of Hearst Communications. She can be reached at

Performance Insider for Thursday, July 10, 2008:

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