Digital Youth Insights & Learning Experiences Webinar

This is a webinar, that I did for the DCK TN and Mobile Monday London, 27th Jan 2011, and should be of interest to people that want a closer understanding of the youth market.  Through my experience in mobile and online community products since 1993, despite much time, effort and cost, I have seen many products fail to succeed or fail to reach their full potential. One of the key reasons is that end users are not engaged in their development. I set up the Digital Youth Project in 2005 to address this gap focussing on the youth market and to show how engaging young people in your projects can provide great real life learning experiences for them too. I illustrate the points using case studies from virtual world to mobile to community projects with a social media twist.

Thanks to those that logged in live, for my 4.5/5 rating and for the great feedback! It was a fun new experience talking to the aether!

Please click on this link to view and listen – you will need to register but it is free:  Webinar DCKTN / Mobile Monday London.

Here is the presentation, without me talking over it, and some of the key points listed below.

Key Youth Insights– see presentation for the case studies that support each point

1. Young people are practical & they want useful products too

  • Some adults incorrectly equate youth products only with fun; my case studies show that young people need and appreciate helpful products too, such as mobile mapping services.
  • In addition, young people can quickly tell you where your product is not practical – for example, they are worried about the security aspects of wandering around holding their phone and whether your service can be fully appreciated on a small screen.
  • They also want product naming to effectively describe the product – so say what it does on the tin.

2. Hygiene factors – what is now expected by young people as standard, basic features

  • Young people want choice, so for example if you are developing a music-based App, make sure that you have as many genres in there as you can.
  • They want to be able to use services on their mobile, pc and other devices such as i-Pod so multi-platform and channel access is important.
  • They are so familiar with certain user interfaces, for example, the Apple Store, so where you can, work with their understanding rather than feeling you need to create something different.
  • Time over I see that young people will dive straight in to using the product. They want to work it out for themselves – that is part of the fun, however, that is no excuse for creating something that is not intuitive.  If you are going to add help, first time tutorials can be effective, as long as they are interactive; making help information concise is essential and males have a tendency to look to YouTube for short videos.
  • Social functions are now expected. Facebook is the benchmark for being able to share, comment and converse.
  • Voice, text and camera are now the basic expectations of a phone.

3. Young people want to help with feature definition & market positioning

  • Before creating your visual presence, talk to young people and ask them how they would use the product; again, you will see case studies of where using the wrong visual will throw the user off track.
  • I have worked with many products where the functionality is fantastic, but the wrong user facing product has been developed – young people are very good at un-packing the functionality and putting it back together again in a more attractive proposition.
  • Competitor analysis, as we know, is crucial before you can work out your feature set and positioning; young people will tell you who they think your competitors are, which is far more valuable than who you think they are!

4. Young people need to be addressed with the right language for their age group

  • When considering the youth market, I suggest 2 year increments; 11-13, 13 – 15 and so on. I have found that your actual users will be those that are in the age increment below the one that you are targeting – young people are often trying to appear to be older than they are.
  • It is also important to realise that there is a lot of cross-generational traffic on sites that are populated by young people – particularly in the virtual world, social networking and gaming scenarios.  Aunties, uncles, godparents, grandparents, older siblings – particularly when they are remote – will engage with their younger contacts in their own environment.

5. Young people are savvy, so be honest, satisfy their curiosity and gain their trust

  • When presented with a new product, often a young person’s response is to think “where is the catch”, so if you have chargeable elements; sponsored content; integrated advertising and so on, just be upfront about it. This way you will show your respect for their intelligence and gain their trust.

6. While they are financially aware, this does not mean that they won’t spend money on digital experiences

  • There are already plenty of online and mobile experiences that young people enjoy for free – so there is no point presenting them with a similar experience that is chargeable.
  • However, young people are spending money on digital – as I found when looking at digital music products “who do you think got Tinchy Stryder to the top of the download charts?” Note also that digital goods revenue lines are still in growth.

7. Young people are social media natives, they can help you create content and awareness for your product, business and business event

  • You can offer great learning experiences for young people to help you understand how best to use social media to generate awareness and social media coverage of your business, project and events.
  • Media students are on the look-out for real life projects where they can provide media coverage for you whilst adding to their portfolio – think photographs, film, interviews and general journalistic comment.
  • If you are looking for creative content perhaps to add some spark to an event, think about offering an opportunity to young people’s arts and performance groups.

Adult Misperceptions

Throughout my work in this area I have come across some resistance from adults to engaging young people, so here are my challenges back:

  1. Young people are scary and they will automatically take a negative stance: Incorrect! Young people are encouraging about innovation and willing to take risks. You will find working with them energising.
  2. They just grunt – think Kevin the Teenager: Incorrect! Explain, listen, coach and ask open questions in the right environment – you will get very constructive feedback.
  3. You have just chosen the clever kids to work with: Incorrect! Great feedback does not just come from clever kids – often the most disruptive and under-achieving have the most creative and honest input.
  4. “What young people want is…”: Incorrect! Avoid generalising about the youth market – some just call and text; they don’t all have blackberries, they don’t all want an iPhone, and the list goes on.

In conclusion, by engaging users in the design of products and marketing, you will become more efficient. You will know when you have a dead horse to stop flogging; you can avoid endless internal assumption-based debates on features and user interface; you can generate new challenging ideas; you can get a good idea of how best to target the youth market and overall maximise your development and marketing spend.

Please do get in touch if you would like these insights presented at your business or event.

Teen Panel travels to the heart of the Music Industry!

In March 2010, the Teen Panel travelled to the heart of the music industry, Music 4.5 Conference put on by 2 Pears.  Another digital industry that is struggling with revenue models.  Another opportunity to challenge a number of assumptions about young people. Another real world learning opportunity for the teenage panellists!

While we wait for all the teenagers to arrive, mobiles are out of the pocket & provide the perfect ice-breaker! This is Nuru and Chris.

Prep time! I show the teenagers the conference room and we talk about how we will work the stage. They practice their introductions based on the collages they have prepared. They are assured that the audience will be hanging on their every word & they are encouraged to just be themselves!

 

Off we go - session format is introduced - in this case, we will have panel introductions, followed by 4 pitches and breaks for feedback after each one. Q&A at the end.

The Panel Introduce themselves

Rachel, 17, private school, West London

Shivz, 19, Hackney Youth Enterprise Project

Nuru, 17, Chestnut Grove comprehensive school, Balham

Chris, 17, Chestnut Grove comprehensive school, Balham

Yasmin, 17, Newbury Park comprehensive school, Newbury

Craig, 18, Newbury Park comprehensive school, Newbury

The first industry presenter takes the stage – Robert Thomas from RJDJ.

Robert invites one of the panellists to demo the product. Shivz, an emerging DJ happily takes the stage for a live rap!

The audience goes wild and Shivz becomes the star of the show! RJDJ is an i-Phone App, that creates music live for the user, in response to their surrounding sounds picked up by the microphone and their movement. The user becomes the artist. During the demo, it felt as if the product was not shown off to its full potential. The focus was on Shivz’ live rap, rather than the functionality of the product.

Tube Radio's Rogerio Mota

TubeRadio.fm helps you find, organise and listen to music videos on the web – they are developing an i-Phone App. While the TubeRadio.fm presentation felt a bit more like an investor pitch, the product was clearly demonstrated – It is a music video site that is positioned to improve the experience of watching music videos online.

Henrik Berggren from CitySounds.fm introduced a rather novel new service!

CitySounds.fm enablers their users to listen and discover the latest music from cities around the world. It shows the latest chart is where you find recently updated cities; offers individual city pages for more tracks, genres and stats and the popular chart showing the 32 most popular cities. Users can help a city climb the chart by tweeting or sharing it on Facebook.

James Tonkin from Zova gets energetic!

Zova is “the world’s first music + rhythm football training programme.” Specific drum rythms correspond to particular training excercises which are demonstrated by professionals on their media device. I would have liked to show this to a panel of young people that are specifically football training. On this particular panel, only two of the boys used to train.

Key Insights

    1. “Make it work on all phones” – or do we just bide our time?
    While Teens do want to try out new stuff now, as with many other new products, such as picture messaging, the market needs to bide its time for the hardware to move through its natural lifecycle. I would propose that in terms of market penetration in the younger generation, the i-Phone is still in the Introduction Phase. Younger teens often start their mobile life with the parents old phone or with prepay, so perhaps we need to wait another year or two. None of the teen panellists in the last three sessions I have run have an i-Phone or an Android. As per previous blogs, Blackberries are quite popular with the more affluent teens, where they will buy the same phones as their friends to get the free blackberry messenger service. I have also come across an example of a teen that has a Blackberry because it was a hand-me-down from a parent.

    2. The Teens were good at finding uses and recognising practical benefits for the products they were shown.
    These observations provide great insight to help companies develop their user positioning. Caution! These young people responded really well to new ideas – the “shiny” effect! However, this does not mean that they would actually become a user of the product.
    – RJDJ
    “I like the idea of being able to note lyrics really easily when you’re on the go…” But surely there are other ways to do this – Pen/Paper or Recorder on phone?!
    – TubeRadio.fm
    “This is actually something I’ve been looking for myself. I really like the idea of music videos in a playlist, and being able to play them at a party.”
    “I like the fact that you can watch a load of music videos in succession
    – CitySounds.fm
    “It’s artsy, I like that about it, and the fact that you can capture the essence of different cities. It’s a really good idea, and I haven’t heard of anything like that before.”
    “I do like the idea of music from different locations and backgrounds… This is going to be great for new artists looking to promote their own music.”
    Rachel travels to see family in Brazil regularly and could see that this is something she would use.
    – Zova
    “you’ve got harsh competition – Nike, Adidas”

    3. The Teens wanted to make sure that the product offered choices, particularly in the selection of music, where they wanted to be able to discover music by genre.
    – RJDJ
    “I think this is a really amazing app … but it only focuses on urban genres like hip-hop.”
    “Can you use other instruments – can you put in a guitar?”
    – TubeRadio.fm
    “Will you be doing a mobile version that’s easier to use?”
    “Would you be able to buy the videos so you can watch them on your iPod?”
    “I think it’s really good… The only thing is will you be able to use it on your phone?”
    – CitySounds.fm
    “say I click on Barcelona, can I choose a genre, or does it just come up with the top songs?”
    “I can’t really relate to that. There’s a certain genre I listen to in the morning…”
    “From your presentation it looks like it only focuses on dance music. What I’d like to see is to have some sort of mood setting”
    “I’m a bit confused whether I like it or not really. I tend to stick to one genre at a time. Is it really new artists, or only the latest tracks coming onto the radio within that country?”
    – Zova
    “you should stretch to more sports than just football”
    “I don’t play football, but I saw in the video you had a skateboarder in the background, so you could stretch to a different type of sport.”
    “It would be good for general fitness – maybe use within a gym”
    “Not everyone listens to that music. I’m from London, I’m not from Sao Paulo… ”

    4. Is it free? Are young people spending money on music?
    All the presenters were asked this question. Shivz thought it was a misconception that young people are not spending money on music. He asked the audience how they thought that artists like Tinchy Stryder had managed so many music sales – was it really the older generations that would buy that style of music? I am sure that there are stats somewhere to shed some light on this? See Vic Keegan’s article!
    Tube Radio is free – at which point the audience began to scratch is communal head! So how will they make money?
    One of the panellists commented “it’s good that it’s free, because most teenagers don’t really want to spend money on anything!”

    5. Adopting familiar user interfaces is a good idea!
    When teens are presented with products, they will naturally liken them to products that they are already familiar with. This is useful for companies to hear where this group see the natural competitors, and it is also an indication that companies could reference these other sites in their material to help get across what their product does.
    Tube Radio –
    “I like the idea how it’s quite the same layout as iTunes, so people will be familiar with it”.
    “I thought it was good, and quite interested in the way you combine iTunes and YouTube”

    6. Teens show their sophistication
    Citysounds.fm – “would you have to enter the city you’re in, or would it automatically work it out?” (It is automatic)
    Zova – Some of the panellists struggled with the practicality of listening to music while they were football training.
    “It would be good for general fitness – maybe use within a gym”
    “I think it could be a good idea for workout sessions.”
    “You can’t listen to music when you’re training, unless it’s in the gym.”
    “I was at Butlins, and these kids came over and they were playing music, and I was like ‘why are you playing music? We’re playing football!’

    CitySounds.fm and TubeRadio.fm were the most popular with the panel and RJDJ had a shout out from Shivz.

    Unfortunately, due to previous sessions over-running, the Q&A was cut from the session. Shivz was invited on stage by Mike Butcher and Jemima Kiss to join their closing remarks. He wondered why there weren’t more labels at the conference and naturally he put in his pitch for any free stuff that was going!

    Jemima & Shivz - Closing Remarks

     

    Thanks to Richard Cardwell and “pevijo” on Flickr for the photographs.

Seeking presenters for Music 4.5 Conference, 4th March!

I am getting ready for the next Travelling Teen Panel that will take the stage at the Music 4.5 conference on March 4th 2010.

Music 4.5 will bring together music tech start-ups, serial entrepreneurs, investors, artists, band managers and key industry players to share knowledge, discuss strategies for business success and debate market trends and evolution.

I am lining up a panel of 6 young people, aged 16 – 18 years old from a variety of backgrounds to give their feedback to the latest and greatest offerings from the music industry.

I have Zova (website coming soon) and RjDj lined up to present to the panel, and I have space for 2 more presenters. Here are the reasons why you really want to do this!

  1. This is a great way to show the world how keen you are to listen to your users
  2. You may find out some nuggets of information that could save you development and marketing costs down the line
  3. As we know, feedback is a gift – and in this case, it is a free gift as the event organisers are offering a FREE TICKET for each presenter!

If you have a product or service or a marketing campaign that you are targeting at teenage users and you want to take part, all you will need to do is prepare a 4 minute pitch that explains the user experience – I recommend that you do not do a live demo, but instead show a film or presentation.  I will be on hand to help you with any questions that you have during this preparation.

On the day itself, you will make your presentation to the panel, which is facilitated by me and immediately afterwards, you will receive 6 minutes of feedback. The panel may ask you some questions and they may even give you some ideas on how to best develop or position your offering.

The session will start at 11.50 and the conference is at Cavendish Conference Centre, 22 Duchess Mews, London, W1G.9DT

I always write up the key insights from the event on my blog, and you can see a sample of this here:

So come on, mail me through the “Contact” page on my blog or direct to julia.shalet@googlemail.com and let’s start talking!