Where are the Teens?

Adventures in Using Social Media #1

DSC_0125_classyThis is the first in a series of posts on lessons learned by the North Carolina Museum of Natural Science on use of social media in its Teens Science Cafe program.

Ask anyone and they’ll tell you that “the kids these days are all about social media.” We knew that for our NC Open Minds Café program to be successful in pulling in an audience of interested teenagers, we’d have to meet them where they are. But social media is a vast and ever-growing landscape, so first we had to figure out what our teens are actually using.

First Things First: Where are they on the Web?

We’re lucky that we already have a great group of teens assembled: our Teen Advisory Board for the Museum started in the 2011-2012 school year to provide youth-oriented feedback for the planning and execution of the new wing of our Museum. The Teen Advisory Board has taken on leadership of the Teen Science Cafés, and our monthly meetings  give us a chance to check in with them, plan for the next month, and get their ideas on what topics will be of interest.

At a meeting early in the year, I made a giant chart listing several kinds of social media – Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, YouTube, blogs, FourSquare, and others – and asked each teen to indicate whether they used the platform often, a little bit, or not at all.  The results were clear: Facebook is where the cool kids are.* We even got such insightful gems as “Twitter is for old people” and “Instagram is for people who are too lazy for Twitter,” both of which made me giggle. For our audience, Facebook is where we needed to concentrate our efforts.

*Disclaimer: I imagine Facebook will prove to be popular among this age group no matter where in the country you are, but it’s still worth asking.  There are regional, cultural, and socioeconomic differences in usage, so find out what your audience is using.

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