How to Engage With Young People on Social Media
You may have heard the term “TikTok Teen” on the news, online, or, if you’re a parent, from your children. What exactly is a TikTok Teen? They are young people who are hyper-engaged with social platforms online (especially video app TikTok, as the name would suggest). These young people are mostly Gen Z, generally defined as being born in 1997 or later. Unlike most millennials and earlier generations, they grew up on the internet, with Facebook launching in 2004 when the oldest Gen Zers were only seven.
At this point, you may be asking me: “If Gen Z is so engaged with the web, why can’t I get them to engage with my church online?” Social media marketing for younger generations is always different—they don’t use social media platforms the same way millennials, Gen X, or Baby Boomers do. If you want to engage more young people with your church’s social media presence, here are four helpful tips:
Consider your platforms
Facebook was the cool new social media platform for millennials (after Myspace, of course). Facebook’s allure started as a private platform for college students only, but soon it expanded and now provides a place for anyone with a valid email address to read, write, and catch up. Facebook tends to be the platform most associated with an older audience— parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles all have Facebook profiles. Facebook is undoubtedly a useful tool—according to a 2018 statistic, there were 244 million active users in the US and Canada. But if you’re hoping to catch the elusive Gen Zers, you might need to look beyond Facebook. A 2019 Pew Center study reported that 67% of respondents aged 18-29 used Instagram, and 62% used Snapchat. If you want to engage more young people, you need to go where they already are. Consider the benefits of adding another platform (items to think about include who would run it and how much extra time it would take), or consider taking a look at your social media strategy and determining its effectiveness.
Think about when to post
You need to consider where to post, but you also need to consider when to post. Many social media strategies cater to the average working adult’s schedule. Perhaps a post at 8 a.m. or earlier to catch someone scrolling before they go to work, another post around noon or 1 p.m. for their lunch break, and a final post at the end of the day. While some Gen Zers are working jobs with regular hours, many are students or working in industries that don’t follow 9-5 schedules. Make use of the analytics features on your platforms. Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram all have easily-accessible analytics that can help you learn what time of day your posts are receiving the best responses. You can also take advantage of scheduling to post outside of the regular workday hours. Facebook and Twitter allow you to schedule directly on their platforms, and you can use free tools like Later to schedule on Instagram.
Post what they care about
Where are the young people in your community engaged? Find out and cater your posts to those subjects! A trend among the latest generation is caring about social justice issues and engaging with news and politics. Perhaps your church is trying to be more green? Post about your initiatives online, encourage comments and ideas and allow the young people in your congregation to assist in planning these newest initiatives.
You can also create a social media advisory board and fill it with diverse voices, including Gen Zers. A team can be as formal or informal as you’d like, with the goal being the opportunity for different sets of eyes to look at your content before posting. Those young people engaged with social media can help you determine what to post, where to post, and when to post.
Stay up with the latest trends (but recognize where to invest your time)
Social media trends are all the rage, and they’ve been in style since the very beginning. From the Ice Bucket Challenge to promote ALS awareness to TikTok duets, people love to be in the center of the action. Think about how your church can take advantage of these trends. Look at what hashtags are trending on Twitter and try to post relevant content on those subjects. Examine the new features introduced by social media platforms. Short videos set to music are viral, with Instagram just releasing its “Reels” feature. Figure out how to incorporate popular memes or gifs into your posts. Humor is always on-trend, so, when applicable, add it to your social media strategy.
However, a word of caution: think about where to invest your time and how you want your brand perceived. Some of these newer social media platforms don’t last (RIP Vine), and some internet trends die down quickly. Is it worth creating a TikTok account, or would it be better to explore Instagram Reels? Where do you want people to find your church, and how do you want your brand to look?
Each generation brings something unique to social media—but it can be tricky to figure out how to engage with them. I hope that these ideas and tips will help you create accessible social media platforms for all!