Great article in the Washington Post today about the phenomenon kids on facebook are having to address with the whole "Friending your parent" debate.
That got me wondering about how effective our libraries have been in engaging interactive online conversations with teens. We have been working so hard to reach the teens. Libraries have blogs, facebook accounts and myspace pages but I still wonder if we've really been able to be part of the interactive network kids have between themselves or are we still "pushing" - trying a little too hard like the kid who just isn't part of the group.
Are we utilizing the tools that will help us make that connection or are we recreating a classroom setting and labeling it “new”?
I found this video and I loved it. But it exemplifies what I am talking about. Here is this very cool video with a teen speaking to teens, the whole bit. But it only has 228 hits. When the hits are that low for an online video designed to reach teens, to me that’s a red flag that says we missed the mark. Let’s face it, for a teen to listen to anyone (even this very cool teen) talk about a teen center just isn’t going to cut it. I’m envisioning we might want to use these tools a little differently...
All the new marketing concepts are about providing what our customers want. So what do our teens want? I don't think kids necessarily need us to be their friends in the classic sense. Hey like it or not, we are still adults. We may be cooler than schools :-) but we are an institution. So with those parameters what kind of social networking would they need from us?
Let’s start where we are successful. If you're running programs that are bringing in teens and they leave thinking it was an awesome program then you can assume they need to show their friends ho didn’t come what they missed and share memories with those who did come. This is where you post the YouTube clips. No need to video the whole event but you could edit the clips that are memorable and will be viewed by kids on YouTube. Chances are extremely good that you'll need a teen in the editing room with you to pick them out or else you’ll miss what they really thought was good. I’d follow through with a link to an online survey either about the program or the clips. Something that will bring them to the teen blog where they can find out and vote for the next program.
Speaking of blogs, how are our teen group blogs doing? Is anyone running them as a place where teens are voicing opinions on issues THEY are already thinking about and maybe even discussing?
I know we al love online book clubs and there is an audience for them. But we also know teens love to talk about themselves. They like to talk about the things they are reading in the teen magazines- older brothers harassing them, homework too hard, adults acting alike hypocrites, proms, celebrity gossip … is there a way we can use the topics they are interested in to engage them in a conversation online with us?
You’d probably need to start with online surveys to build some interest since surveys allow kids to be involved with the safety of anonymity. If an issue is getting enough traction then maybe open it up to online discussions.
YouTube debates are a big hit. Why not use the medium for your teens. Attach secondary polls asking kids to name people they’d like to question about the topic. Or take it a step further and ask them what famous people would they want to ask a question. This starts the list of people you’ll want to try to contact. You don’t have to bring the person to your library; you could negotiate an online appearance and run a webinar. The teens can submit YouTube questions and vote for which ones will be asked the person. You might be able to land a really big name if you join with other libraries and schools and split costs. And the beauty is because it’s online you’ll be able to reach kids at home.
Now I'll go full circle... I'd love to see on online debate between parents and teens on the subject of friending parents! :-)
Has anyone done similar programs? How are they working?