image credit: Kevin SteeleThirty years ago, there were generally four traditional ways to get in touch with your target audience:

  • Television
  • Radio
  • Periodicals
  • And Outdoor or billboard advertising.

I think it goes without saying that times have changed. Websites can be created in minutes with Google Pages. Information can be monetized with Squidoo. Teenagers have invented a new, short character language to use when texting their friends.

The sound of a phone ringing has evolved from an ordinary “ring, ring,” to the owners’ favorite songs. We even have the choice of choosing a song for our callers to listen to while they’re waiting for us to pick up.

Facebook has evolved from an unknown social network into a popular, effective, and fun way for college students to easily keep in touch after graduation and beyond.

So how do we engage this new generation of internet and technology users? How do we capture the attention and trust of individuals whose worlds are so cluttered with information, advertisements, and a long list of aspirations and goals?

I spend a lot of time considering these questions because I am 22; I am on the leading edge of the generation that has known the internet for their entire lives.

The simple answer is to crawl your way through all that clutter, through that information overload, and sit yourself down right in front of their faces. If you play by the traditional rules and simply keep carrying out the same thing you’ve done in the past (even if it’s worked before), you’re going to lose the attention of this new generation to those taking the plunge and embracing the new media available today.

So, if I have you convinced to put yourself out there and crawl through the mess of social networks, advertisements, and cell phone ring tones, then what you should be asking, is how?

Three ideas: research, focus groups, and interaction. It all goes back to the fundamentals of marketing: you need to get to know your target audience.

  • Which forms of these new media are most often being used?
  • What activities are being engaged in on the internet?
  • Are their mobile devices internet-ready?
  • Do they read their email on Outlook, a web application, or a mobile phone?

Once you find out who your targets really are, you can apply these general rules of thumb in order to decide exactly how you should initiate initial communication.

  • Create a viral design: I know. This is easier said then done, but it still has to be said. If you create something as viral as the Evolution of Dance, which has elicited over 76 million views and over 120,000 comments since its debut in April 2006.
  • Encourage Interaction: create something fun to encourage viewers to spend some time on your site, such as Elf Yourself or Tide to Go’s “Be the Stain” application on it’s My Talking Stain website, based on its Superbowl ad this year.
  • Hire the young generation: outsource your research or creativity to your audience to encourage more interaction and create more of a viral effect. iRobot launched an excellent campaign in which they announced a contest asking users to discover alternate ways in which to use their Roomba vacuums.

Once you gain attention and reach the location directly in front of the target, the next step is to gain trust. You will only be able to do this if you are, indeed, trying to help them out in some way, instead of blatantly promoting your cause without communicating any benefit to them. So, gaining trust is something you have to think about from the very beginning.

Design your communication in a way that helps out the younger generation in some way. Give them free access to something they want in exchange for exposure to advertisements. Solve a problem they have no solution to. Otherwise, your blatant promotions will become annoying, and simply have a negative effect, instead of being successful.

Erica DeWolf is the Founder of and eMarketing Strategist for DeWolf eMarketing & Design, she blogs at eMarketing & New Media.

Written by Erica DeWolf