8 ways to engage young adults online

by Alison Michalk September 24, 2013

Why do people participate online? How can a community definition inform our behaviour as community managers? Quiip shares their tips for youth engagement, gained from a decade of experience in the online space.

Whether engaging young or old, the first rule of community management should be understanding why people engage online at all.

Communities are made up of a “specific group of people who form relationships over time around a strong common interest”. They participate online for several reasons including reputation, efficacy, altruism, anticipated reciprocity, a sense of belonging, and emotional connections.

Here are out 8 tips on engaging young people online:

1. Look for long not short-term engagement

Just as with display advertising, you may only have a few seconds of someone’s attention. However you don’t want to exploit that opportunity for short-term likes or engagement. With social media it’s a long term process, so use that time to start slowly building a relationship with your audience.

2. Listen

Give members the opportunity to share their thoughts, ask you questions and interrogate your policies. Encourage them to talk to you – you’ll gain valuable insights into what they want from you, as well as how they want to communicate with you. However be careful about asking for feedback you can’t act on!  And be sure to acknowledge and respond to as many people as you can.

3. Use their native language

Talk in a language that your followers can understand. Industry jargon, abbreviations and buzzwords mean nothing to them. However, this doesn’t mean you have to end every status update with “LOL :)”. Young people expect businesses online to maintain a certain level of professionalism and respect. So be friendly, courteous and interested in what they have to say.

(Actually, it’s okay to say “LOL” or use 🙂 if you like — and if it suits your brand “personality”. Just remember that it’s important to balance being personable with being too casual!)

4. Be relevant

Whatever you’re talking about, try to frame it to match their particular self-interest. It’s important to frame things within the context a young adult might ask themselves when they see your content: “How will this benefit me right now?” Post content that’s relevant to them right now, that interests them right now, and that’s worthwhile spending their time with right now.

5. Show humour

It can be tough to make a dry topic interesting. Don’t be afraid of using humour – when appropriate. Humour is a great tool for Community Managers! The Australian Bureau of Statistics did a fantastic job with their 2011 twitter account, and received international attention for this joke.

6. Be relatable – have a face!

Although you’re expected to behave like a business, no one can relate to a business. Put a human face on your communication and ensure that face is someone who is helpful, understanding, and is relatable to your audience.

Do things that will take your membership on a ride with you. Don’t be afraid to rebel against the status quo to stand out from the crowd — young people are often doing this themselves among their own peer groups.

Ask them to share their own experiences as it relates to your topic or industry. Whenever you can, side with them in their arguments, empathise with them, and work with them to bring about the change they want to see. A business can’t be a friend but it can still act like one.

7. Show respect

Always maintain a healthy respect for your members, not just while you’re building your community but also once it’s built. You don’t own them, they don’t owe you anything and, given a good enough reason, they can turn against you. At the same time, those who feel like they “own” your business — that have shared their thoughts with you and have seen you benefit from their contributions — won’t need a reason to defend you.

8. Allow pseudonymity

If you’re engaging with your members outside of facebook, consider allowing users to choose their username, not their real name. Pseudonymity can help provide a safer, private space where people feel more comfortable discussing certain topics and sharing information and advice. If you have effective community management you can avoid bad behaviour by enforcing the rules.

Have you made it your business to engage with young adults online? Do you agree with these engagement tips and potential risks to look out for?