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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

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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

The past two years has been a turning point for our generation as market prospects changed and economies deteriorated. The vicious cycle of the global economy diminished employment prospects to an all-time low in many countries which has also become increasing prevalent across the region.

Over the last year we have witnessed the rise of the “Arab Spring” and seen the youth call for improved economic conditions and better employment opportunities. This revolutionary period has also seen individuals calling for a better future for generations to come by placing governments under pressure to find solutions and fast. They want answers to their questions; will I find a job after graduation? How can my public and private sector help my employment prospects? What other avenues are available to me?

The answer is to build up entrepreneurial capacity amongst today’s youth.

By working together, governments and the private sector in the MENA region have the ability to build the skills of the future generation so that entrepreneurship becomes a viable career option as starting a new business provides an economic advantage to a community.

Over the next 10 years, the average annual growth rate in the labour force in the MENA region is an estimated two per cent per year; youth need to take matters into their own hands by taking the initiative in creating jobs for themselves and others.

Hill + Knowlton Strategies has a long standing partnership with INJAZ Al-Arab to help foster entrepreneurship across the region. INJAZ Al-Arab focuses on working with the private sector and government to educate students and provide them with the necessary skills and qualifications needed to succeed as entrepreneurs.

Recently named one of the top NGO’s in the world by Global Journal, INJAZ Al-Arab operates in 15 countries across the MENA region and is a member of Junior Achievement Worldwide. INJAZ Al-Arab programs provide middle school students with entrepreneurial mentorships; a great example of how the private sector can support and benefit the next generation of business leaders. INJAZ Al-Arab gives the Arab youth an opportunity to tackle entrepreneurship head on with no fear. Once they believe in their potential and live their dreams, they will become a key factor in benefiting the local economy and a driver of the community.

To-date, INJAZ-Al Arab has reached out to over 1 million youth and the organisation hopes to reach many more.

– Noor Ghazzi – Junior Account Executive at Hill+Knowlton Strategies Dubai

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