Teens, YouTube, and The It Gets Better Project

Anyone who works in the marketing sector knows how difficult it is to target teens. As a matter of fact, anyone whose ever tried talking to a teen knows how difficult it can be to get their attention. Teens are some of the most savvy media consumers, with short attention spans and little patience for that which does not interest them.

Adding further complication to the already fickle teen nature are the very necessary privacy laws put in to place to prevent teens from being targeted or offered incentives if they’re under 18. Many social networks make it their policy not to extend sign-up privileges to those under 13, and despite how many kids may be lying about their age, the common understanding is that teens are off limits.

Beyond just being difficult to reach, reliable research on teens’ online activities is sometimes difficult to come by, and even where there is data, you often have to rely on anecdotal evidence of what tactics might effectively grab their attention. And keep it.

Nielsen data recently pointed out that teens like TV on the internet, spending time on sites like Hulu, for example. They watch YouTube videos, less so than their older counterparts, but YouTube is one of the few large social sites with no age restriction where teens can be reached. It’s still difficult – you sort of have to take the “if-you-build-it-right, they-will-come” approach.

Thus the impetus behind the It Gets Better Project, spearheaded by writer Dan Savage. Saddened by a recent rash of suicides by GLBT (that’s gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender) teens who have been bullied or harassed, Dan put out a call for videos full of hope and support. These teen victims, some as young as 12 and 13, acted out of a sense of hopelessness and isolation, which is why Dan chose to use a large social platform to reach out with the message that it does get better.

Aside from being applauded for taking action against a very sad and disturbing trend, Dan can also be commended for using the right tactic on the right platform. Teens browse half as much as the typical user, and are less likely to land on a microsite – targeting them on a site where they’re already congregated has the best chance of success.

The action that Savage was asking people to take, filming their personal stories, is the bread and butter of YouTube. It’s something that is being done organically on the platform he chose, so it created a much higher likelihood that people would participate. And participate they did. From the guy next door to Tim Gunn, Savage got so many videos that he could no longer favorite them on his channel, and had to create an entire microsite dedicated to his It Gets Better Project.

Anyone have any other examples of campaigns that have successfully targeted teens? I’d be interested to hear your input in the comments section below.

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