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10 Tips for Talking 2 Teens – Anastasia Goodstein at VIDFEST 2007

I attended the Vancouver International Digital Festival (VIDFEST) today.  One of my fav presentations was by Anastasia Goodstein, publisher of – a highly respected and oft-quoted blog on American tweens, teens and twenty-somethings – and author of a new book Totally Wired: What Teens and Tweens are Really Doing Online.
As part of her presentation, Anastasia gave us marketers in the crowd 10 Tips on Reaching Teens in a "new media" kind of world.  They read like best practices you’d want to follow for most of your marketing efforts, but they take on a particular significance and importance when applied to the younger, more tech and media savvy generation:

  1. Be contextual.  No random popup or intrusive mobile ads, especially for teens.  Let them opt-in to the content they want, that is useful to them – they’ll respond!
  2. Offer something of value.  Quality content that is useful and/or fun (games, music, user-generated content). Oh, and make sure you test it on real teens first.  Just to make sure.  Your idea of useful and fun likely differs from theirs.
  3. Let teens make your brand or product their own.  Find customization or DIY options.  Make your fans the stars of your campaign!  Support spontaneous tribute videos and blogs – don’t suppress them.
  4. Be as transparent as possible in communication. Use human speak rather than corp speak.  Don’t talk down to them.  And admit mistakes immediately.
  5. Remember … it’s not about the best design or the coolest tech.  It’s about meeting a need they have.
  6. If you’re building a community, commit to it.  It doesn’t happen overnight.  Think about quality participation rather than sheer numbers as a success metric.
  7. Know that your community will be decentralized.  If you build your own community, you’ll need to set-up outposts where teens already hang out.  Contribute to MySpace and Facebook ecosystems by creating a widget.  Give them fun stuff to take with them when they stop by.
  8. Monitor the buzz about you.  If something is broken, fix it.
  9. Don’t use sneaky viral marketing techniques (e.g. fake teens posting on message boards or writing fan blogs).  You WILL be found out.
  10. Support projects and causes that are important to youth (e.g. indie music, games and other grassroots projects).  Put the weight of your brand behind causes that young people care about.

One of the other topics that came up during Anastasia’s talk was the issue of identity and accuracy of online profiles.  She mentioned that tweens and teens will, of course, lie in their profiles.  She has a recent short blog post about it which I thought was a good reminder for those of us who are trying hard to reach this desirable audience:

People ask me a lot if teens are putting their "real information" online. I think they are on Facebook, but not so much on MySpace. A lot of teens lie because they don’t want creepy adults contacting them. Some lie because they’re too young to be there in the first place. But I also think teens lie because of the relentless ads and spam that have taken over the service. Now that they are introducing targeted ads based on user data, I wonder if this trend will only get bigger as teens figure out more ways to creatively embellish their profiles in order to get away from marketing — even if it’s marketing that is supposed to be matched up with their interests.