A UNC Microcosm

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I’ve been conducting interviews and focus groups with UNC upperclassmen for my PR research class. A lot of my research was social media based, so I thought I would share some of the main themes I took away from the process.

Facebook ain’t what it used to be…

…but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. The general consensus was that while everyone has a Facebook account, they’re not doing a lot in terms of adding content to their personal pages. (ie, I don’t remember when the last time I updated my Facebook status was.) Still, students identified Facebook as one of their most-used social media sites. Why?

Even if we’re not posting statuses, we’re still communicating on Facebook. Our Facebook networks allow us to keep up with others, and the Facebook messenger app is a pretty popular way to get in touch with people.

facebook-event

Facebook events are also a big reason we’re still using the site. First, the events help keep us involved in what’s going on around us. Second, the events help persuade us to get involved too; when you see friends will be attending, you’re more compelled to go than if you had just seen a flyer for the event.

We’re split on online advertising.

adblock

The debate over targeted online ads isn’t anywhere near resolution. Some students thought targeted ads were creepy and invasive, some thought they were funny, some thought they were useful, and some installed Google AdBlock a while ago and don’t have to deal with them at all.

We have specific reasons and expectations for following brands and organizations on social media.

1. Freebies

You can pretty much always bribe us with free stuff to like/follow your brand on social media. I mean, we can always unlike/unfollow after we get the goods, so why not?

2. Witty or relatable posts

We like funny. It brightens our day and it doesn’t make us feel like you’re just here to sell us something. If your brand has a strong grasp of sarcasm, memes, pop culture, or general wit, the posts will be more enjoyable and more likely to keep us as an audience.

DiGornio tweets

3. Engaging with the audience

Maybe it’s vanity or maybe it’s just human nature, but we like to feel like someone is listening to us and cares what we have to say. Brands that respond to Tweets, like Facebook comments, or retweet our personal content are more likely to stay on our good side.

arby's

4. Being the best source of information

If we’re interested in a smaller brand or organization, social media is often the best source for the most up-to-date information. Many of these smaller organizations will have a social media presence before they develop a website or other communications channels since social media is free and easy to use.

We don’t ask (people) for help.

When asked what they would do if they didn’t know how to work a computer program or the latest app, everyone said they would always try to use Google or a YouTube tutorial to figure it out way before they ever considered talking to another person. After the internet resources there’s a hierarchy for human assistance, too: students said they would go to a friend for help if they couldn’t find the answer online. Most students seemed unwilling or uninterested in asking a UNC faculty member (professor, library staff, IT staff) for assistance.

That’s all for now – let me know if my findings ring true for you.

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Stop generalizing millennials in social media marketing

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I recently read this teenager’s post about social media sites, which reflected on how he believed his generation feels about the various social media platforms currently on the market. After a class discussion today, I realized my biggest issue with the article (besides some presumably unintentional privilege issues) is this “millennials” generalization that all young people react to social media the same way.

In reality, there is a HUGE difference between social media users in every age group. The difference of just a few years can drastically change one’s social media habits; I offer up myself and my younger sister as examples of this fact.

My sister is in her late teens, just four years younger than myself. I recently asked her if she was going to get a Facebook account. She scrunched up her nose in a classic “ew” face and said,

“I’m not getting a Facebook. Facebook’s for old people.”

Of course, I have a Facebook account – and don’t consider myself “old” –  so I was like:

cryptkeeper

She went on to say that hardly any of her friends were on Facebook, and that her most used social media apps by far were Snapchat and Kik. (I might as well go ahead and admit that I had to ask what Kik was, so maybe I really am old.)

This chat with my sister demonstrated to me the complicated relationship between social media and two of its influencing factors: brand perception and demand for services.

Let’s go back to Facebook to examine fb messengerthis further. Most people my age that I come in contact with have Facebook accounts. Furthermore, most people I know continue to use the messaging feature on Facebook, even if they rarely post content to their profiles. We have a need for an instant messaging service, and Facebook provides it. Many choose to use Facebook’s messaging system over another option like Kik because we already have an established network of people we want to contact on the site. We’re accustomed to Facebook and it is meeting our demand for messaging services, so we keep using it, even if we see newer social media platforms as “cooler” or more useful for other things.kik

On the other hand, it makes sense that my sister and her friends would be partial to the messaging app Kik if they shun Facebook so vehemently. They still demand an IM service, but without a pre-established network and sense of brand loyalty (or laziness, depending on your viewpoint) to another site, they found their own app somewhere else. Facebook was deemed “uncool,” which allowed Kik to enter the scene and take over that particular target market.

This is why my advice to anyone trying to start up a new social media site or app would be to consciously evaluate a precise target age range based on that group’s current brand perceptions and needs. All young people are not looking for the same things, nor do we feel the same way about all types of social media. I believe a better age-tailored campaign for new social media options could truly change how receptive we are to new social media platforms.

“Millennials” just isn’t a narrow enough audience anymore.