Image source: catholicyouthwork.com

To help understand what makes young people tick online, Youth Affairs Council of Victoria (YACVic) today released their report “’What makes you tweet?’: Young people’s perspective on the use of social media as an engagement tool”. The research report brings to light the importance of understanding how and why young people are using social media, and what they expect and would like to see in order to best engage with them.

YACVic surveyed 55 young people, conducted six focus groups and explored case studies from five youth organisations in order to investigate youth engagement. The report includes qualitative responses from participants which contextualise the popularity and usage reasons for the various social platforms, and provides recommendations and best practise principles for youth engagement. The quantitative findings from this report are similar to the 2013 Yellow Social Media Report (SMR), which also examines the use of social media by Australians; including youth aged 14-29 — we’ve included some of them here for comparison.

What social media platforms do they use?

Unsurprisingly, both reports indicate that Facebook is the most used social media site, followed by other popular platforms such as YouTube, blogs, Tumblr and Twitter.

Figure 1: Social media platforms used by Australian youth, 14-19. [Source: Yellow SMR 2013]

Figure 1: Social media platforms used by Australian youth, 14-19. [Source: Yellow SMR 2013]

The reasons given from YACVic participants for Facebook’s popularity include the use by many of their friends, ability to stay in touch and co-ordinate events, access news, as well as the many combined functions and features available.  Useful findings from the YACVic report include why Twitter is less popular that other platforms. It appears to be used more by older individuals with interests in specific fields, who are associated with youth organisations or who want to promote certain activities.

The YACVic report indicated that almost all participants used social media daily. Facebook, YouTube and Twitter were the most frequently accessed platforms daily. The Yellow report similarly examines how often youth use social media, indicating that the majority use it on a daily basis.

Figure 2: Frequency of social media access by Australian youth, 14-19. [Source: Yellow SMR 2013]

Figure 2: Frequency of social media access by Australian youth, 14-19. [Source: Yellow SMR 2013]

Why do they use social media?

The Yellow SMR indicates some of the main reasons why young people opt to connect via social platforms. Popular reasons include sharing photos and videos, coordinating activities and accessing news.

Figure 3: Why social media is accessed by Australian youth, 14-19. [Source: Yellow SMR 2013]

Figure 3: Why social media is accessed by Australian youth, 14-19. [Source: Yellow SMR 2013]

The YACVic report also identified other interesting ways young people are engaging via social media beyond strengthening existing relationships, forming new ones, and seeking entertainment. There was a focus on using social communities to build connections and gain information around certain issues and interests in a ‘safe’ place online. These were especially in regards to mental illness, disability, disadvantaged youth issues and same-sex attracted or gender diverse youth. For these young people, social media serves as a way to reduce the social and physical isolation they experience ‘offline’, to arm against discrimination, and to empower youth through empathetic support. Additionally, social media is allowing youth the ability to ‘take action’ and create change. Twitter and Facebook are avenues used to share information, build conversation and promote efforts around issues on which youth had been advocating and working.

How are they connecting with organisations?

The Yellow SMR found that 63% of 14-19 and 42% of 20-29 year olds follow brands or businesses online. YACVic examined why within their report, where young people indicated that social media provided a more accessible and modern way to learn and gain information from organisations. While young people nominated social media as one of the first avenues to access this information, they are less likely to engage with organisations via comments or posting questions, but rather share or pass on information to others in their social networks.

What do they want from social media connections?

As in the offline world, young people want to be taken seriously. The YACVic report recommends that social media engagement needs to be focused on including youth, being purposefully engaging, and empowering them. The report outlines youth participation principles in order to assist organisations achieve best practice with youth online, and provides recommendations for organisations, state and local government, and youth services on how to approach youth engagement.

For more information and to read the full report: visit the YACVic site (PDF download, 904kb)

Also available is the Yellow Social Media Report (2013): (External link)

Disclaimer: Dialogue Consulting’s Director, Hugh Stephens was involved in the report’s steering committee.