If your business is trying to reach teens, Instagram is where to find them. In a survey of teens this summer, 32 percent named Instagram as the most important social network.
I’ve gotten a firsthand glimpse of what teens enjoy on their go-to social network through my volunteer gig for the Texas Teen Book Festival. Held each fall in Austin, Texas, the festival brings beloved YA (young adult) authors like Jenny Han and Suzanne Young to town and draws flocks of teen (and grown-up!) fans to see them.
One of the ways I help out is posting to the festival’s Instagram account, which gives me opportunities to interact with some of the most delightful teens around. They’ve won my heart, and they’ve taught me a few Instagram tips for appealing to teens.
1. Teens thrive on interaction.
I love it when I can give the account’s followers some positive feedback. Maybe that means praising the T-shirt one fest-goer painted herself for the event, or asking a school group that’s traveling a long way to the festival to keep posting updates on their trip.
I’m pretty sure that some of those comments have encouraged our followers to post more. But I’m also pretty sure that they would have been on to me immediately if I had been faking my excitement about what they were sharing.
Takeaway: Share your genuine fondness and enthusiasm with teen followers. They’re likely to give the same happy energy right back to you. (Check out our past post with more tips for using your Instagram captions to build connections, too.)
2. Teens have questions (and look to Instagram for answers).
One of the biggest things I’ve learned by posting for a teen-oriented social account is that they have a different approach to the web than I do as a fortysomething.
I may follow the social accounts of the events or businesses I’m interested in, but when I’m seeking specific information — for example, directions or an event lineup — I still tend to go to the official website.
My sense is that teens would rather get information from the social accounts they already have relationships with instead of visiting the website.
When I brought information to Instagram, such as the festival schedule or rules for the festival’s writing contest, they were appreciative.
Takeaway: Realize that Instagram might be your only point of contact with teens. What information do you want to make sure they have?
3. Teens love to share with friends.
Our teen followers on Instagram spread the word whenever we post lineup announcements or other news about the festival, and they’re great about tagging their friends on pictures they’re in or that they might like. Like all of us, they want to share things on social media that make them look smart and in-the-know.
Takeaway: Roll out announcements — for example, reveal winners of a contest — over a week instead of all at once to maximize sharing opportunities.
4. Instagramming is part of the event experience for teens.
On the day of last year’s book festival, I posted my own photos from the event and re-Grammed lots of festival-goers’ photos. Re-gramming was easy because the teens faithfully used the hashtag (#TTBF14), which festival organizers made sure was visible everywhere.
Likes and comments poured in instantaneously. (Which was totally addictive!) That showed me that teens weren’t waiting until the end of the festival to catch up on Instagram coverage. They wanted it as the festival was happening.
Takeaway: If you’re doing an event for teens or young adults, Instagram it in real time and publicize your event-specific hashtag.
5. Teens want to share their milestones.
Many of the photos I re-Grammed on the day of the festival itself were of teens meeting their favorite authors. I was happily touched when so many of them took the time to thank me for featuring their photo. But it makes sense. Talking to the authors they loved was really important to them, and I was glad I could do something to highlight the milestone.
Takeaway: Listen to your Instagram fans. When you get new followers or comments, check out those users’ feeds. What’s a big deal to them? How can you affirm and support what they care about?
And, by the way, if you happen to be in Austin, the Texas Teen Book Festival 2015 (#TTBF15) happens Sept. 26 at St. Edward’s University. I’ll be the grown-up you see Instagramming and re-Gramming frantically!
Sarah Beckham is a freelance writer and editor based in Austin, Texas.