"2015 is the year of the super-teen"

The Student Room are lead partners of Youth Marketing Strategy 2015 in London. Jack Wallington, Community Director at The Student Room will be giving the keynote opening session on the 11th March, sharing his tips and insights on how to engage an audience that’s engaged in something else. We caught up with Jack ahead of YMS to get his views on the world of student marketing.

How has student marketing changed in the last 12 months?

It feels like student marketing is in a renaissance and has grown up a bit. Brand building is more of a focus as new opportunities are made available to marketers to build rapport with students. In particular there’s the renewed content focus, evolving personalisation new targeting tools and immersive experiences within social platforms where students hang out.

What’s been the most surprising thing you have learnt about young people recently?

We learn something new every day about young people – they’re constantly forming opinions and making decisions. Every year is another generation with different likes and dislikes which change rapidly each week and sometimes multiple times in a single day. Yesterday Batman was cool, today capes are definitely out (Madonna…). At the moment, I’m particularly surprised at how politically savvy they are – not just the odd few, but on mass. I was clueless at 17.

How do you keep students engaged with your community?

By making it easy for students to meet, chat to and support each other. We highlight the best of the community’s own content using increasingly cool personalisation tools. And we talk directly to thousands of students on the phone, in person and on our forums every single day to understand their needs. Including our 100+ nationwide student advisor network. All supported by one of the most talented teams I’ve ever had the joy to work with.

What are the most talked about topics so far in 2015?

Interestingly, outside of sex and exams, the most popular topics are all socially questioning. Topics from the role of religion, sexism in society and the motivations behind terrorism acts around the world. The things I read from our audience make me feel safer in the knowledge that future generations will be more sensible than some of those in power today…

What are the benefits of having an established community when it comes to marketing?

We have such a large audience that it’s possible to reach people of all ages and backgrounds, which is great for marketers. But also, we mix all of the social benefits of Facebook and Twitter with the added ‘social bond’ entirely unique to communities of people who share a common bond. Even working with a small portion of the community can motivate a body of over 1.6 million members…

What do you see being a key trend in 2015 that organisations should be aware of?

2015 is the year of the super-teen: better prepared, permanently connected to a network of social support and generally more capable than those older than them thanks to their near symbiotic use of online.

Young people are proving that they are still the most technologically savvy, often way ahead of the mainstream. We’re seeing an insatiable appetite from young people to use our online tools to benchmark themselves, compare data and to streamline their busy lives. “I know how to use the internet but I choose not to” is also something I hear frequently from young people I speak to as they are better able to manage the so called ‘information overload’ often reported in the press.

What can people expect from your session at YMS? What secrets will you be revealing?

There are only so many waking hours in the day and there are a million things young people will stuff those hours with… entertainment, making money, revision, friends, family and sleep! I’ve spent years being personally interested in how we marketers can muscle past everything to draw that attention to us in a meaningful and impactful way. I think we’ve developed a good formula at The Student Room with our partners which I’d like to share at YMS in a practical session.

And finally a few fun questions...

Best moment of your career so far?

Having to address Basil Brush in meetings as “Basil Brush” and acknowledge the fact he was my boss.

Favourite app? Why?

Dark Sky – a satellite based weather app. Not that exciting until you predict when it will rain on you to the exact minute. It’s amazing.

Something few people know about you.

I went to primary school with the Osbournes. Ozzy and Sharon waiting at 3.30pm every day had a lasting impact.

What are you most looking forward to at YMS?

I’m a bit of a chatterbox so can’t wait to meet other youth marketers to learn from their creative work.

What can delegates expect from your session?

It will be practical and informative. But it’ll probably feature a cat and it’s unlikely I’ll make it through without mentioning gardening or me painting naked people.

Finally, what should we have asked you that we didn't?

You didn’t ask me what my most successful marketing campaign was and I’ll never forgive you for it. (jokes!)

Jack presented at Youth Marketing Strategy 2015 in London.