Social Marketing to Teens Thrives Through Web 2.0 Technology

YouTube videos for a new public health campaign are going viral: the Boston Public Health Commission hopes its messages on sexual safety, disseminated through new internet media, will spread as markedly among city youth as sexually transmitted diseases have. As highlighted in the Boston Globe, this campaign understands that adolescents today are deeply entrenched in media sources that constantly bombard them with messages about how to live; rather than fighting against media exposure, Boston is responding with a positive message sent through the same channels.
The media is a ubiquitous presence in our lives, from radio to TV to the internet. American teens are particularly influenced by their access to the web, which offers chances both to absorb information from outside sources (“Web 1.0”) and to actively contribute to the internet’s offerings through social networking sites, videos, blogs, or message boards and forums (“Web 2.0”). By capitalizing on these many options that play such a large role in adolescent life, social campaigns such as the STI Prevention Drive in Boston can connect with teens on their own terms.
This concept has been explored in an article in Children and Electronic Media, “Social Marketing Campaigns and Children’s Media Use,” and the companion policy brief “Using the Media to Promote Adolescent Well-Being.” Both of these recognize the positive ways that online media can be used to promote healthy behaviors, and they detail successful Web 2.0 campaigns.
With internet available in schools, homes, and even on cell phones, preventing teens from viewing objectionable content is virtually impossible. Some have worried that teens’ web use will lead to more dangerous sexual behavior, including becoming sexually active at a younger age and being less cautious about disease and pregnancy prevention – issues that are explored in another FOC article, “Media and Risky Behaviors.” While such concerns are not unfounded, the designers of Web 2.0 media campaigns recognize that rather than prohibiting internet access, it is far more successful to fight fire with fire – using the same media that promote unhealthy behaviors to promote healthy ones.
While parental guidance and school programs can play a role in discouraging unhealthy behaviors, Web 2.0 media campaigns acknowledge the reality that adolescents are heavily influenced by their peers. The new Boston campaign uses YouTube videos generated by and starring teens, and it also recruits teens to spread the message through other forums, such as street theater and visual advertisements. By having the teens design the content, the messages are more accessible than if they were created and imposed on teens by adults.

Web 2.0 campaigns also offer social organizations increased potential for spreading their messages. For example, the Boston Public Health Commission will field anonymous Facebook questions to experts, allowing teens to ask and get information without embarrassment or social stigma. The internet allows for viral messaging as well – videos can be passed around through blogs, Twitter, emails, or even news coverage, greatly increasing their reach. Marketers know that casual but frequent exposure to a message makes consumers more likely to buy their products; Web 2.0 campaigns use the same methods to promote healthy lifestyle choices among teens.

18 thoughts on “Social Marketing to Teens Thrives Through Web 2.0 Technology

  1. Rebecca

    My name is Rebecca Becker and I am a graduate student in Child and Adolescent Clinical Psychology. For my dissertation, I am conducting a study which examines the way in which technology influences how parents monitor their child’s activities. The results of this study will illustrate how technology impacts parenting practices and the parent-child relationship. If you are the parent of an adolescent age 13-18, please click the link below to take my survey.

  2. ssandybn

    Social media attracts teens and a recent examination i USA over the issues shows that more than 70% of the total teenagers are really accustomed heavily with different social media sites like twitter, facebook, myspace etc and they are engaging themselves and gracefully addicted to web 2.0 platform. Recent fame of social web 2.0 technology is creeping vigorously through children mind and they are directly and indirectly cohesive with it without thinking the impact in their future prospect.

  3. Ellen Hampton

    I totally agree with this “everything in the world has its own pros and cons, and that includes the internet. as for me, I’ve found the web to be very useful in so many ways that I can’t even think of any downside of it. “

    We just need to put in good use any new technology that comes to our way…

  4. Jason

    everything in the world has its own pros and cons, and that includes the internet. as for me, I’ve found the web to be very useful in so many ways that I can’t even think of any downside of it.

    it’s just on how people will use its power. as uncle ben had said “with greater power comes greater responsibility”, well it applies to any circumstance that you can think of. we can’t actually stop anyone from sharing anything over the internet, may it be a damaging rant or a helpful tips. it will solely depend on how the user will react on it. it’s a free world, so we just have to make use of it for a better cause, i hope. but what can 1 voice do, right?

    discipline from the community itself should handle the case 🙂


  5. rosehip

    In todays world kids rather sit and play video games and be pale all their lives.. never go outside.

  6. Anonymous

    We’ve got to be more careful what our children see on television AND the internet.

  7. Seany

    As Technology evolves… this is going to become more frequent with Children! Kids these days are so into their personal technology gadgets. Web 2.0 is just the start of it!

  8. lisamrollinsbaby

    While I think that Web 2.0 does have potential for education purposes, I wonder at what point does it just become part of the white noise that students experience everyday. What is the real impact on their lives?

  9. Rich

    Kids of today are more apt to sit in front of their computer when they get home from school rather than go outside and play. I think you have to definitely make an attempt to use the Web 2.0 and social media as a way to have a good influence on kids.

  10. John

    Although I agree with what many have said, I think Kathy makes a great point that this type if social networking is here to stay.

    Facebook is now the most popular website in the world and there are so many other sites out there trying to mimic Facebook that you can’t begin to even count them.

    It is a great idea to use these platforms as a way to teach out children valuable information.

  11. Kathy

    There is only one thing I would like to add here. There is nothing we can do to prevent our children to use these social networks. They are here to last and I guess we will have to adapt. I look forward to seeing more prevention and some sort of social network police to trap predators who seem all over the place these days.


  12. Zetaclear

    Hi there,

    I agree with Anna and other comments, but I would also like to add that I love what Jocuri wrote,I have to agree that socializing on the net is going to new levels and I am not so sure either that it is good for kids. Sites like facebook are taking over the way teens interact!

    Insightful conversations, thanks!

  13. L. Fraser Willard III

    Situations like this are never quite as simple as you might think, but I resepct your point of view

  14. jocuri

    Conclusion: Socialization in front of the computer on social networking sites make you Anti-Social in society. Don’t let your kid too much in front of the computer, you will destroy they age.
    ….sooner we will become to make web 2.0 kids

  15. Slaton

    I think that information based viral attempts by organizations are valiant, however I highly doubt they will be effective.

    To be effective the campaigns will have to model profit-driven campaigns which I would guess tend to be more efficient. I hope they work though.

  16. Anna Wartrol


    I am a campaigner for sex education for teens and I feel that you raise a very valid point that social media is a fantastic means for reaching kids today.

    The internet usage of teens in USA has continued to grow every year, and although there is also more exposure to unhealthy sites such as pornography, I think taking a proactive stance and influencing youth through sites like youtube and Facebook is a positive thing and something should happen more I feel.



  17. David Dooley

    My name is David Dooley. I’m an elementary school teacher in Bakersfield, CA.

    I’m an advocate of media-based parenting education for young people…that is young people, kids, being taught best parenting behaviors and practices in an effort to prepare them for the responsibilities of parenthood. I believe parenting education for young people could be a tremendously powerful and proactive means for preventing child abuse, substance abuse, and other forms of violence.

    I feel strongly about teaching kids how to parent because preparation for adulthood is the reason we educate children, and parenting is by far the most important job they’ll have as adults. Additionally, often parents don’t realize they have poor parenting skills, may not be motivated to change their behavior, face serious psychological and practical obstacles, and have already damaged their children.

    I was thinking the education could take the form of both free and paid, permanent yet evolving, public service messages on radio, television, billboards, print, products, and the internet designed to teach young people how to engage in parenting behaviors and practices generally recognized as supporting the healthy physical, emotional, and intellectual development of children, and reject parenting behaviors and practices generally recognized as disrupting the healthy development of children. I can envision appealing school age spokespersons delivering these messages.

    Does this idea have merit? If it does, how can I turn my dream into reality?

    David Dooley
    3600 Brisbane Ave.
    Bakersfield, CA 93313
    (661) 835-8450
    (661) 477-1513

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