35 things I took away from #youth_conf


Last week I was lucky enough to be one of the presenters at the Engaging Youth conference in London. I was speaking about Instagram and some of the things we’ve learnt using it at the University of Warwick.

As well as doing my speaking bit, I was also able to to hear most of the other sessions from the day – here’s a few things I took away from a busy conference.

London has plenty of swish venues

The opening panel featured guests from a number of big brands, including UniLad, who say they now want to get 100 million views on videos of things like homelessness, rather than just their ‘banter’ pieces – that would represent quite a huge shift.

Also on the panel were Warner Brothers, who are about to go all-in with YouTube influencers around the launch of the new Harry Potter film – it all sounds very cool.

Another panelist, Ticketmaster, made an excellent point that a key influencer for many young people is their parents, so we shouldn’t overlook targeting parents too.

TFL were another panel member, and they admitted they find getting through to young people difficult – apparently teenagers have quite an ambivalent attitude towards death!

One campaign TFL particularly liked was the famous ‘Dumb Ways to Die’ from Melbourne’s Metro system. If you’ve not seen it, you need to!

The final panelist was Soap & Glory, who are looking to stay relevant to young people – in particular they are using things like Snapchat geofilters to get people through the doors of Boots stores and buying S&G products.

Ticketmaster made the following, brilliant point…

They also reminded us all to make sure the social channel you’re looking to use is relevant for your organisation, rather than just blindly jumping on every new channel.

Following the brand panel, there was the first of a couple of panels featuring actual, living and speaking youths. In this first panel, the most surprising thing for me was that none of the panellists seemed fussed about Snapchat – they all commented that the platform seemed to have lost its fun.

On the other hand, they all still use Facebook frequently – they see it as a good all-rounder.

The idea of using WhatsApp as a communication channel was well-liked, so long as it was a two-way dialogue.

The panel all seemed non-plussed about Instagram Stories – they’d seen it, but not really engaged with them.

Up next was Steve Bartlett from The Social Chain, who delighted the room with the story of 16-year-old football prodigy Rex Secco’s £34m million transfer to Arsenal, which spread like wildfire across Twitter last year despite being entirely made up by the Social Chain.

According to Steve, micro influencers are the way to go – they give you far more bang for your buck.

Next up was Cosmopolitan, who reach about 200 million people a month with their Snapchat content.

However, this is because they are an official Snapchat Discover partner, which is basically impossible for most of us to afford to be able to do. As such, there wasn’t really much of use from this talk.

Lonely Planet followed, talking about how they use Periscope, Snapchat and Instagram Stories. IN short, they do takeovers – lots of takeovers.

Lonely Planet also gave a good tip of using Instagram Stories sparingly so that people don’t get bored of seeing your avatar at the top of their feed.

I went next. It seemed to go well…

One thing I totally didn’t expect to happen? Getting into a Twitter thread with the University of Reading about ducks, the Koan and, erm, rats riding red lobsters!

After lunch, we had a session from Twitter, who reminded us that relatable content works best on their platform.

Twitter is, and always has been about what’s happening now.

Also, Twitter is now listed as a ‘news’ app rather than a ‘social networking’ one. Interesting.

Feel like you can’t keep up with those pesky millennials? Don’t worry – their capacity to consume content is 25% higher than older folk.

Want to know a brand Twitter thinks does Twitter well? Check out CadburyUK.

It’s always great to catch up with Newcastle University’s Matt Horne. His GIF game is strong…

I’d love to have taken away loads of great tips about using Snapchat from MTV – sadly their session was a real let down – a load of not very useful statements, (poorly) read from a card as a script rather than presented and mixed up with a few shouty videos. Most disappointing from the world’s number 1 youth brand.

Much better was the session from Fred Perry – not least because they made sure I wasn’t the only presenter of the day to swear on stage when they revealed how much they love it when their followers fuck with their content.

In case you’re interested, my swear was only the word ‘bollocks’, which doesn’t really count.

I love how Fred Perry seem to actively avoid trends – aside from being totally in keeping with their brand, it also allows them to get real engagement, rather than simply chasing lots of views.

Before dashing off to get my train home, I was able to stay for the second panel of real-life youths. This one gave much more importance to Snapchat – a channel they literally check the moment they wake up.

This panel also, interestingly, said that when it comes to Instagram, they now constantly use the Explore tab to find content.

The panel all agreed that being faced with a 30-second pre-roll ad on YouTube that you can’t skip would put them off watching the video all together, regardless of how intrigued they were by the video title.

Don’t assume that young people aren’t interested in LinkedIn – lots of University students are getting set up on the network before they finish their studies.


Huge thanks to the #youth_conf team for asking me to speak! Check back over the hashtag to see what other delegates were saying during the day and find all of Matt Horne’s GIFs!

**Don’t forget, I’d love you to follow me on Twitter and Instagram, and connect with me on LinkedIn too.


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