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9 digital marketing tips for connecting with teens

Jennifer Lonoff Schiff | Sept. 26, 2014
Marketing experts share their tips on how and where to reach the lucrative teenage consumer market in the highly fragmented mobile social universe.

selling to teens
Credit: ThinkStock

Marketing to teens has never been easy. The demographic is, by nature, fickle and finicky -- hot for one thing this month and disinterested the next, whether it's clothes, gadgets or a social media platform.

But the task has gotten even harder in recent years, with the proliferation of social media and shopping sites. While having more outlets or opportunities to connect with teens may seem like a good thing, if you have a limited marketing budget and resources, it can be a nightmare. Which sites do you invest in? All of them? Just a handful? If so, which ones?

Sadly, there is no secret formula to getting teens to want to buy from you (although until very recently it seemed like Abercrombie & Fitch had one). However, there are steps you can take to improve the odds that your marketing message will reach and be seen by them.

Here are nine digital strategies for wooing teenage consumers.

1. Work directly with teens. "Work directly with a well-connected trendsetter in that demographic," says Julia Benben, director of marketing, Freetoes, a toeless sock company that was founded by a teen.

"If you are going to sell to teens, we highly suggest enlisting an ambitious teen as an intern or part-time member of the team -- and allowing [her] to contribute in a meaningful way. Both parties will learn a lot," Benben says. (At Freetoes, the founder serves as their Chief Teen Trends Officer.)

2. Choose the right brand ambassador(s). "Don't look to Hollywood or the stage at Madison Square Garden for your next [brand] ambassador," says Tim McMullen, founder and CEO of advertising agency redpepper. "Today's teens are not as influenced by celebrities as the generations before them. Instead, look to the Web for social influencers followed by your target audience that fit with your brand," he says.

"YouTube is the most popular social channel among Generation Z, and it serves as the perfect native environment for paid influencers," says McMullen.. "Teens revere the trusted online personalities that they follow in the same way they do the most popular kids in school."

3. Hang out where they hang out. "In order to reach teens, you need to be present on the platforms they are active on," says Danielle Wiley, CEO, Sway Group, an agency that specializes in influencer programming. "They're on Instagram and YouTube and Vine. They aren't trolling Facebook for content and searching for connections [so much anymore]. So it's important for brands to develop campaigns that fit their consumption habits."

"According to a recent 2014 study by Piper Jaffray, Facebook's popularity among teens continues to slip, while Instagram has nearly tripled its popularity in the United States," says Sammy Lauk, digital strategist, Canopy Labs, a predictive analytics company.


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