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In part 2 of the series looking at engaging Generation Z, the ‘net gens’, H+K’s Hasan Badwan tackles’s the ‘#how?’ in marketing strategy.

In an earlier blog post, we discussed why brands should target Generation Z (also known as teenagers) in their communications strategies.  We identified that the fickleness and purchasing power of teenagers represent great opportunities for brands to create brand loyalty for years to come.  There are interesting challenges, however, that make it increasingly difficult for marketers to target this segment.  It doesn’t take a scientist to realize that teenagers have a (very) short attention-span.  Capturing their attention long enough to recognize your brand and buy your products is a major hurdle.  Furthermore, most marketers are at least two generations older/ more advanced/ (insert euphemism here) than their target.  How do we bridge the gap without sounding like we arrived 15 years too late for the prom?

When presented with these challenges, most communications professionals have a very predictable, almost knee-jerk answer – ‘social media’.  They then proceed to create a Facebook page, a Twitter handle, and then shout out their messaging.  Interestingly, this tends to turn off current teenagers than to grab their attention.  The major failing of these methods is that they are not personal enough, and this feature is the secret to success with teenagers.

Take, for example, a Facebook post or a Tweet that was drafted to target thousands of fans.  By addressing so many people at once, the messaging in that post will have to be diluted, thus making it impersonal.  A closer look at teenage online information consumption reveals that they overwhelmingly rely on the company’s website to gather more information.  While this might sound counter-intuitive, access to a website allows teenagers to find the information they need, when they need it. 

Another major source that teenagers turn to for brand information is blogs.  This point cannot be stressed enough.  An effective blogger outreach program will do more to build brand awareness and loyalty than a Facebook page with really cool status updates.  Bloggers are the bridge between our messages and our target audience.  They represent a more honest voice and are therefore more highly trusted by teenagers.

All of this points to the three most important letters you need to know for your brand’s online presence – SEO.  The simple truth is that no one will find you if you can’t be found.  Getting your brand mentioned on blogs as well as online news coverage will increase the chances that your positive messages are the first things teenagers see when they search for you.

We’ve now seen why we should target teenagers and how to do it.  But once you grab the attention of this demographic, what do you tell them?  You might be surprised with the differences (and similarities) in how we address Generation Z, which will be revealed in part 3 of this Generation Zeries.

Hasan Badwan, Account Executive at H+K Strategies Dubai


Hardly a week goes by without a news story or research report into the growing use of social media across the Middle East. However, one of the most comprehensive studies on the subject was released just last week, authored by the Dubai School of Government’s Governance and Innovation Program.

The “Arab Social Media Report” (ASMR) provides some welcome quantitative analysis in a field often dominated by anecdote and hypothesis, and delivers a host of illuminating insights – for example, that Kuwaitis are the most active tweeters in the region.

I don’t want to go into much detail but highly recommend taking a closer look at the report.

But what does all this analysis mean for us, as we look to add value and wisdom to our clients in government and business?

Let’s have a quick look at the numbers…

The youth (15-29) are embracing social media most, which is unsurprising given that over half the population falls into this category. As stated in the report, “social media now infiltrates almost every aspect of the daily lives of millions of Arabs, affecting the way they interact socially, do business, deal with government, or engage in civil society movements.

However, one of the common mistakes that brands make as they move into social communications is to treat the discipline as a broadcast medium, rather than an interactive experience. This usually stems from a failure to listen to their audience, before wading in and talking at consumers.

This is where “Smart Listening” comes in – a practice that emphasizes a tailored approach to help understand chatter in the digital sphere and filter noise in the social realm. The ultimate objective of “smart listening” is to extract the relevant signals from online conversations and build business intelligence that supports outreach and engagement. This means that social media monitoring must be customised beyond simple keyword tracking. Keywords and hash tags must be tested and spam filtered, and topics must be drilled into to uncover subtopics and conversation drivers.

Another aspect of “Smart Listening” is to identify opinion drivers, or so called “influencers” and understand the ways they participate in, and shape, online conversations about brands, products or companies.

Simply counting mentions about your company or products provides you with that – numbers without context. At the very least these should be benchmarked against competitors and tracked over time. Numbers with no context will not provide any insight which is required to build a strategy – and this is where “Smart Listening” starts. By breaking down conversations and extracting detailed product and customer feedback, feedback on your company’s corporate social responsibility activities (CSR), how people perceive your company’s (reputation) and how your messages resonate with consumers, journalists, bloggers and analysts; is an approach which doesn’t neglect quantitative data but goes beyond it by adding qualitative analyses.

By identifying relevant topics, key drivers and influencers within the online conversation prior to starting your journey into the space of social media will help avoid any pitfalls, and the continuation of a sophisticated monitoring program will provide a company with valuable insights and allow for higher levels of audience engagement and business goals to be achieved.

Sebastian Troch, digital consultant, Hill+Knowlton AMEASCA

Close your eyes, and picture someone in their teens.  This person will, in all likelihood, possess technology it took you years (or decades!) to get your hands on.  He or she may regard the CD player as the ancient relic of a lost generation.  This person will not remember the global fears of the Y2K bug, but that’s just fine because they can read about it on their shiny new smartphone as they watch television on their laptop.  Congratulations – you’ve just met your new target audience.

In recent years, the term ‘Gen Z’ has become the industry’s new favorite catch-phrase.  While there is some debate as to who exactly falls under the category, it is largely accepted that if someone was born in the mid-nineties onwards, they belong to Generation Z.  The growing trend in the communications industry is to target this group of people, with some sports-wear brands opting to develop messaging exclusively for them.

The question at this point clearly becomes ‘why?’.  Why target a group of people who are fickle, are not independent, and do not have a regular stream of disposable income?  The answer is that brands should target Gen Z because of these traits, not in spite of them.

The indecisive and unpredictable nature of consumption among Gen Z-ers presents an opportunity for brands to reach new customers.  At such a young age, it is unlikely that teenagers have developed strong emotional ties to brands.  This means that brands have an opportunity to persuade teenagers to ditch their current preferences for new ones.

Some may argue that this generation does not have true purchasing power because they don’t have disposable income and because they must ultimately purchase through their parents.  It is crucial however to understand that possessing purchasing power does not necessarily mean one needs the money to exercise it.  By pressuring their parents, friends, and families, teenagers are able to direct money to the brands they most want to build their identities around.  Furthermore, there is a certain ‘coolness’ or nostalgia associated with the younger generation that the older counterparts crave.  By effectively selling to Gen Z, a brand can frame its communication strategies in terms that appeal to all age-groups.

We are seeing more and more brands target Generation Z in order to create a loyal customer-base for many years to come.  Of course, these arguments help us understand why brands should target Gen Z.  We will discuss how brands can carry out such a strategy with in a (near-)future post.

– Hasan Badwan, Account Executive at Hill+Knowlton Strategies Dubai

Is it just me, or is your Facebook wall jam-packed with baby photos these days as well? Single friends are threatening to abandon ship while new parents happily post pictures and videos on a daily basis. With Gen Y beginning to join the Gen X’s  in moving on from the party lifestyle to tie the knot and start a family, Facebook seems to be turning into more of a family album than the rock ‘n’ roll collection of nights out and morning-after gossip that it used to be. What started as a college network has found itself facing adulthood.

In terms of Facebook’s mission, ‘giving people the power to share’ still makes this one of the most effective social tools for keeping in touch with family and friends, especially those spread across countries far and wide. But will it appeal to the next generation – the ‘net generation’ – in the same way?

With every generational jump comes the question of whether today’s trends and tools will endure the test of time. “Change is the only constant”, after all. Facebook, whose value is based on – amongst other things – development of user numbers, is now challenged with living up to the expectation that it is going to continue its growth path to deliver advertising audiences and opportunities for engaging a captured market way into the future.

Approximately one in thirteen people on earth are on Facebook, and today’s 35+ year old demographic represents one-third of the entire user base. Whilst the fastest growing group is currently the generation of 17-24 year olds, the percentage overall that they represent still remains less than that of people around the age of their parents. Even if the younger generation are comfortable with their parents seeing what goes on in their lives, but do they really want to be on the same social network as their grandparents? Judging by the 164 ‘likes’ for the Gen Z Facebook group, we might doubt they do!

With a global presence established, Facebook needs to continue expanding, adapting and extending its offer to appeal to new markets of consumers.  Whether this means the fragmentation of the social network we know and love remains to be seen, but watch this space because it will be interesting to see how Facebook develops in a bid to maintain the value of ‘Facebook Inc’ into the future.

– Katy Branson, Head of Technology UAE at Hill+Knowlton Strategies Dubai

Launched back in 2010, Pinterest went almost unnoticed by the tech press for almost a year, until early adopters suddenly realised that a site with millions of users had been seemingly created overnight.

Since then, Pinterest has grown out of pure devotion from a dedicated, mostly female (80% cite some stats) following, who enjoy “pinning” items onto their pin boards from around the web.

Unsurprisingly, the popularity of this social network has attracted significant brand attention, and some of the most established and emerging brands now have a presence on Pinterest (as well as Pin it buttons on their websites) by which they engage large and small audiences in different ways.

Here are three currently using Pinterest to great success:


One of the first brands onto Pinterest, this organic food store has gained over 28,000 followers to date. Pinterest allows WholeFoods to curate images from across the web which help translate brand values to their audience – from community and environment to healthy eating and organic produce. It is important to note that WholeFoods are not promoting their products, rather an aspirational lifestyle.

Better homes and Gardens

Magazines perform well on Pinterest thanks to their good stock of images, editorial content and largely female following. A good illustration is Better Homes and Gardens. They also created a “Pin and Win” contest which called for contestants to create a board using images from (via Facebook). They gained a huge amount of Facebook fans and email data as well as inbound links.

U.S. Army

Partly to level out the female sway of this platform, but mostly because it’s an excellent example of how an outwardly “non-Pinterest” brand can use the platform to its advantage, the Official U.S. Army page includes boards such as: “welcome home,” “army history,” and “humanitarian relief”.  While the audience is likely to be made up of Army wives and girlfriends, the U.S. Army is cleverly reaching out to an audience which they may not have been capturing before via other channels.

Opportunity and strategy

While the boards and messages look great, you may be wondering what other benefits exist for a brand on Pinterest. There are many – is the answer – from participation and brand evangelism to relationship building. Additionally, organic search engine visibility will be vastly improved (many brand Pinterst pages ranks above the Twitter pages in the search engine results illustrating Google’s algorithm preference for this platform). However, what brands such as Amazon are discovering is the opportunity to drive large amounts of traffic back to the pin’s original source (assuming the pinner found the image on your website) making it another channel to display your goods or services via valuable third party endorsement.

For brands, Pinterest has become very pinteresting indeed.

– Susan Clowes, Digital Consultant at Hill+Knowlton Strategies Dubai

Facebook page live? Check! Twitter account set up? Check! Competitions and prizes at the ready? Check! You have a clear strategy, avatars and profiles all set up and content ready to roll. Just one question: have you thought about what language you’re going to use?

Beyond deciding on Arabic or English (or both), there is a more important consideration regarding the tone of voice that will represent your company and most effectively engage your audience.

While companies are investing in planning their social media strategy, this is one element that can escape consideration but does have a real and lasting impact on the success of your campaign. Having spent many years representing clients across the full breadth of the technology sector, we at H+K Strategies are no stranger to deciphering TLAs (three letter acronyms) and soldiering through technical descriptions and documents. But when it comes to social media, your audience is much more likely to switch off and move on than stick at it when the language becomes a challenge.

This isn’t just a tech phenomenon; think about how your bank describes its services, how car manufacturers showcase their innovation, and how the business world generally tends to adopt language almost as a barrier, when actually the concepts are much more engaging when communicated clearly and simply.

In social media, the direct-to-audience connection removes the filter that might be provided in media by a journalist who would seek out an interesting story angle, or translate a complex process into layman’s terms for wider appeal. Our new toolkit of blogs, Facebook pages, tweets and multimedia means that we need to think again about how our companies are representing themselves to the world by the language and tone of voice that they choose to adopt.

Finally, this language needs to be consistent to build a personality through social media. Although behind the scenes we know that few companies are lucky enough to engage a full time professional to maintain conversation, and often several people are ‘speaking’ to the audience at different times. A commitment to a well-defined ‘tone of voice’ will ensure that clarity is maintained and a brand remains familiar to the community it builds.

– Katy Branson, Technology Practice Director at Hill+Knowlton Strategies Dubai

تغيّر نبرة الصوت في وسائل الاعلام الاجتماعية

تفعيل صفحة فيس بوك؟ انشاء حساب على تويتر؟ اعداد المسابقات والجوائز؟ لقد قمت بعمل كل ما هو مطلوب، والآن لديك استراتيجية واضحة إضافة إلى نماذج ومحتوى جاهز للنشر… لكنّ السؤال الأهمّ: هل فكرت في اللغة التي سوف تستخدمها؟

سواء كنت ستستخدم اللغة العربية أو الإنكليزية (أو الاثنتين معاً)، فإنّ الأمر الأهمّ هنا هو نبرة الصوت وأسلوب الكتابة الذي سيكون صدىً لشركتك مع الجمهور.

تستثمر شركات عدّة في التخطيط لاستراتيجية وسائل الاعلام الاجتماعية الخاصة بها، وتعدّ نبرة الصوت الخاصة بكل حملة أحد العناصر التي لا يمكن تجاهلها، حيث تشكل تأثيراً حقيقياً ودائماً على نجاح الحملة.

نحن في هيل آند نولتون أمضينا العديد من السنوات في العمل مع عملاء في قطاع تقنية المعلومات، وليس صعباً علينا أن نقوم بتحليل الاختصارات (المكوّنة من ثلاثة أحرف) واستخدامها في العديد من المواقع والوثائق. لكن عندما يتعلق الأمر بوسائل الاعلام الاجتماعية، لا تتوقع من جمهورك التوقف للبحث عن معاني الاختصارات عندما تشكل اللغة تحدياً بالنسبة لهم.

هذه الظاهرة ليست متعلقة بقطاع التقنية فقط؛ بل تشمل كيفية وصف البنك الذي تتعامل معه لخدماته، أو أسلوب قيام صانعي السيارات بعرض ابتكاراتهم، وميل عالم الأعمال بشكل عام إلى اعتماد اللغة كحاجز، بينما تكون المبادئ القائمة عليها أكثر وضوحاً لدى القيام بالتعبير عنها ببساطة.

في وسائل الاعلام الاجتماعية، يستطيع الاتصال المباشر مع الجمهور ازالة “الغربلة” التي تعتمدها وسائل الإعلام من خلال المحرّر الذي يسعى الى نشر قصة مثيرة للاهتمام أو القيام بترجمة عملية معقدة للغة شخص عادي كي يضمن توسيع نطاق قصته. يجب علينا التفكير باللغة ونبرة الصوت التي سيتم استخدامها في مجموعة الأدوات الجديدة من المدونات، صفحات فيس بوك، تويتر، والوسائط المتعددة، حيث تعكس هذه الأدوات صورة الشركة امام العالم.

أخيراً، هذه اللغة يجب أن تكون مناسبة لبناء شخصية الشركة من خلال وسائل الاعلام الاجتماعية. نحن نعلم أن عدداً قليلاً من الشركات يقوم بتعيين موظفين متخصصين للعمل على وسائل الاعلام الاجتماعي، وغالباً ما يتولى عدد من الأشخاص هذه المهمة، ما يؤدي الى الاختلاف في أسلوب الكتابة اللغوية ونبرة الصوت التي يتلقاها الجمهور. انّ الالتزام “بنبرة صوت” واضحة المعالم يضمن الحفاظ على وضوح العلامة التجارية في المجتمع الذي تسعى الى بنائه من خلال وسائل الاعلام الاجتماعية.

 Translated into Arabic by Lona Ayoub, Account Executive at H+K Strategies Dubai

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