Tips for adults on engaging youth through social media

Developed by youth via The Students Commission of Canada

1. Join Social Media

The first step to engaging youth through social networking is to use social networking. Young people today are wired and use their cell phones and the Internet as their main source of communication. Adults need to be able to understand and communicate through the same methods. So join Facebook, Twitter and Instagram… for example.

2. Be inclusive and respectful

Young people have very valuable ideas and opinions that should be heard. To encourage young people to express those ideas, show that you value their input. Treat them as peers.

3. Engage a diverse audience through diverse tools

Young people are extremely diverse and have many different interests, experience and expertise. Try to engage a broad network of young people by using different forms of social media and communication. Don't limit yourself to Facebook and Twitter. Even things like email, Snapchat, texting or calling can be very useful.

4. Stay with the trends

Social media is constantly evolving and it's important to keep abreast of the changes if you want to have an impact through social media. Learn about and join the new social networking sites that you hear young people talking about. Ask them about what sites they use and get them to show you.

5. Keep it short, sweet and interesting ("tl;dr" – too long…didn't read)

Young people are busy, on the move, and respond to messages that grab their attention and can be absorbed in seconds. Social media is not the place for long-winded messages and explanations. Posts should be quick and simple and where necessary direct people to more information.

6. Be genuine

Young people respond well to adults who are truly genuine and show that they are interested in youth opinions. They are far more likely to express themselves around people they can trust, understand and can get along with.

7. Provide opportunities for meaningful action

Young people are motivated and looking for ways to make a difference in their world. Don't just ask young people for their opinions; offer them tangible ways to get involved in creating short and long term social change.

8. Don't stop at social media

Even though social media makes communication very easy and convenient, don't stop there – continue reaching out to youth in person, by word of mouth and through events and organizations. Social media is a great tool to compliment your youth outreach work, but shouldn't be the only one.

9. Provide positive reinforcement

Positive interactions help build young people's confidence. If young people take the risk to share their ideas, help guide them with positive feedback and constructive criticism. This will encourage them to stay engaged long-term.

10. Follow up

If you've asked young people to get involved with a project, or share ideas, be sure to report back to them on how their input was used. Young people want to know the impact they've had and will be more likely to stay engaged if they updated and informed, and can see how their voice was used.

11. Have a social media presence

If you want to engage youth through social media, you need to have an ongoing online presence. It's not a simple as posting a message every few weeks when you are looking for youth input or to share information. Most companies, organizations and individuals share daily through social media. The more you post the more frequently people will notice you and your cause.

12. Personalize your messages

Make use of emoticons, colours and pictures that will attract your audience. In many situations, visuals speak louder than words. Use info-graphics, memes and photos to enhance your messaging and reach a broader audience.

13.Make use of hash tags

Using hash tags can also attract a targeted audience who may be looking for information related to a certain area. They also summarize a message into short descriptors which has become very popular among youth. When a hashtag trends (is being used by many people at the same time) it draws attention to an issue.

14. Post strategically

Post messages in the online spaces where young people are already at. If you are trying to engage a certain group of youth – find out where would be the best space to reach them – don't expect them to come to you.  Do they have a Facebook group? A website? An e-mail list?

15. Make use of young people's expertise

Most young people are far more savvy with social media than the majority of adults. Ask young people to tell you about the sites they use, what they look at online, or how to engage them. Invite them to teach you about the sites or to give a workshop on social media.

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