As big search and social companies continue to come under fire for youth-based advertising, Facebook recently announced its decision to limit targeted advertising to users under 18. The change comes on the heels of similar regulation by Alphabet (Google’s parent company) to limit the influence that brands have on young people based solely on their interests.
The Google and Facebook Business Manager change creates a challenge for strategic targeting of youth groups through SEO and on YouTube, Instagram and Facebook for communicators.
With the limited appetite for youth-based advertising by major social and search organizations, communications teams will have to revert to other forms of audience reach. Many will begin to realize the need to shift from paid media to shared media and from advertising to organic engagement. Returning to the principles of organic reach, in particular, reaching youth groups will require more cutting-edge and engaging content that draws in a younger audience.
Here are some ideas to reach a youth audience organically:
• Reinvest your ad budget.
Organic campaigns, by nature, are free and rely on the value of the content as a mechanism of reach. The better the content, the greater the reach. But going organic doesn’t mean just posting to your owned channels. Brands can reinvest money previously spent on advertising in organic engagement campaigns. Brands can instead use those allocated dollars to amplify their content in organic ways.
• Use gamification.
Consider a gamified approach to your posts by asking your audience to subscribe to your channel, like your post, use a particular hashtag, leave a comment or upload a photo for a chance to win. [Insert exciting new gadget, concert tickets, gift cards, etc.] By participating in the post, the user’s audience will also see their activity. Considering many youth followers tend to cluster, the gamified approach will organically be amplified to a larger target audience.
• Utilize share campaigns.
Share campaigns encourage your target audience to do the reaching for you. By creating a youth-based share campaign, you create an opportunity for audiences to engage with your message by saying, doing or sharing. Think Ice Bucket Challenge but for kids, with a catchy, unique hashtag.
• Do more telling and less selling.
The bread and butter of organic reach means participating in the conversation and showing a presence. Brands who want to reach an under-18 market should consider befriending other brands that already reach this audience and posting there regularly. Inject your message organically in the comments and try to have your content shared among that account.
• Consider a youth spinoff account.
Content centered around youth may look different than the majority of a brand’s communication. Youth campaigns rely heavily on trendy content that may not resonate with an older audience. Organizations that rely on a youth audience as a subset of their reach may want to consider a Facebook page or Instagram account dedicated to people under 18.
• Embrace influencer relations.
Influencer spending in 2021 has already surpassed the $1 billion mark and continues to climb. As organizations continue to embrace the market share and power of influence, communicators trying to reach a younger audience should lean into these opportunities. While not all influencer relationships are the same, some require a monetary incentive, free “merch” to unpack and demo and outright costs related to clicks.
Joshua J. Smith, M.S., is a full-time faculty member of mass communications and public relations with the Richard T. Robertson School of Media and Culture at Virginia Commonwealth University.
[Photo credit: carballo]