What annoys young people about social media marketing?

A recent Voxburner study looked at what 16-24s thought of brands communicating to them, and what they were doing wrong. 44% said the message wasn't relevant to them.

When communicating to young people, what do companies do wrong?

  • Their message is not relevant to me – 44%
  • They are patronising – 29%
  • They send confusing messages – 21%
  • Not enough offers – 41%

When asking young people of their favourite thing about talking to brands through social media, the only answer that was negative received the most votes, with 39% of the total surveyed saying: "I don’t want to talk to brands."

What do you like most about using social media to talk to brands?

  • I like the interaction – 15%
  • I like the transparency. Other people can read my experiences – 14%
  • I like the convenience. I can get issues resolved quickly and easily – 29%
  • I don’t want to talk to brands – 39%
  • Don’t know – 21%

A recent study by Adobe found some of the top worries that US-based marketers have nowadays. The biggest – and expected – concern of marketers was reaching customers, at 82%.

With reach being the key concern of marketers, there’s plenty of chances to go straight to the source – 16-24s – and ask what’s annoying them. We asked our Voxburner Academy what they thought brands were missing out on when interacting through social media accounts like Facebook and Twitter.

I’ve tweeted Graze Box a few times to say how much I enjoy receiving free gifts with my Graze Box. I’ve never received a reply. One of my friends complained to Domino’s on their Facebook page though, and received a free pizza the next day, which was pretty impressive.
— Sarah, aged 20 from Cardiff
I think social networking, if used correctly, can be a brilliant platform for brands, not only to enhance their business but to make customers feel closer to the brand. If I have a problem with a product, my first port of call these days is normally the brand’s Twitter page, and I’ve had a lot of success through this. Responses seem to be a lot quicker and service friendly. However, companies need to make sure they’re using it correctly and not just spamming Twitter feeds with advertisements. They also need to make sure others not on Twitter are not alienated.
— Rachel, aged 21 from Kent

While campaigns designed to be interactive in a real-world environment – like pop-up shops or giveaways in busy areas – might seem successful at reaching younger audiences, it’s the way that brands conduct themselves online that gets the most attention. Young people know that pop-up events are run by promotional teams. Any interactions and questions that are asked won’t be answered by someone officially from the brand, but by someone paid to be an ambassador.

One point to consider on how a brand reaches its audience is the way in which the audience can reach the brand themselves – usually by social networks like Twitter and Facebook. There aren't many chances for young people to interact with brands properly without an ulterior motive – running a competition, for example – so interactions feel fake. It can feel even more superficial when brands start posting irrelevant pictures and updates that have nothing to do with the brand.

The wealth of knowledge that young people have – whether it be best practices when posting things on Facebook or even how images on the website are not sized correctly – can be incredibly useful for brands. With the lack of proper interaction between the brand and the new generation, what’s the point of them trying to reach out in the first place?

Relevance is easily the most common mistake marketers make when fighting for youth’s attention. Staying relevant in a quickly evolving marketplace, where the consumers are often a good few steps ahead of the brands targeting them, is a huge challenge for any brand – but especially for youth-focused businesses. This is thanks, in part, to the fact youth pride themselves in being ahead of the curve which means businesses and marketers are constantly playing catch up. And, unfortunately, youth aren’t quick to forgive. Get it wrong and you probably won’t get a chance to put it right.
— Wil Benton, Writer, FatKidOnFire
This is more advice than just pointing out the mistakes themselves – hang out with the people you are designing products, services or communication for. Get them involved. What they do, who they trust, what they care about – all of these things could be far more saliently learnt first-hand and you may even discover a genuine insight from first hand experience. And of course, test your working out. Irrelevant, lacklustre thinking won’t survive this test of fire but that’s the point!
— Matt Bagwell, AKQA International Director of Strategic Services

It sounds simple to say “hang out” with an audience and be relevant, but sometimes interacting with young people with a stall at a music festival or with an online competition is just not constructive. Young people are more than happy to take free samples and promotional gifts – who doesn't like free stuff? This isn't paying attention to the needs and interests of the new generation.

By organising opportunities for young people to voice their opinions, not only will there be a better understanding of a brand's audience, but what ultimately is relevant to them.

Things to take away

  • Ever seen a stall with a brand just asking for people to tell them what they don’t like about them? Consider a manned suggestion box booth – with trained staff perhaps from the office – listening to what young people have to say about a product or service. All too often customer service has been directed online, yet the best way to settle someone’s frustrations is to actively listen. Your staff might be exhausted at the end of the day, but you've gained incredible insight into what can be done better, and the brand looks better for putting themselves out there with actual staff and an open ear.
  • Interacting with young people with social media accounts means knowing the tone-of-voice of the brand online, and how to properly interact with them. If a Facebook account mainly sends out funny ‘TGIF’ images, chances are followers find that content relevant to them. It's perfectly normal to use this account to occasionally ask followers what they think of a new product, or ask for tips on what might make the brand's products and services better. This also comes with the kinds of answers you'd normally expect from followers, so don't be upset if answers are monosyllabic, or are pictures of Grumpy Cat.
  • Take a suggestion made from someone through Twitter, and tweet that same suggestion to your followers, quoting the Twitter handle of that person. This achieves two things, with the main one proving the brand's willingness to ask the public their opinion. This could be a suggestion for a new flavour, or a new way of processing orders. This also shows that the ones asking the questions are being heard, actions are being made, and those suspicious that the tweet was made up by the brand can chase down the original tweet.

Image credit: sethdickens