Look out corporate America, the girls are coming to a social media channel near you. Little girls, some as young as 9-years-old, have taken to activism with online petitions by Change.org against multi-national corporations the likes of McDonalds, PepsiCo, Coca Cola, Hasbro, Jamba Juice, and other unsuspecting entities.
This Crain’s Chicago Business story June 17, 2013, Girl Power; Big Business Faces A Formidable New Force: They’re under 18 and All Over Social Media, provides the scoop:
Pre-teens and teens with evolving female emotions (high-touch/high-care) about right and wrong, healthy eating, food toxicity, the Earth, animals, and more are taking issues to heart and attacking corporations via social media channels, online petitions, at corporate events, and in tandem with activist groups.
And, the floodgates are nearly breached. This generation (what label does it have as they are younger than Millennials?), was born with social media engagement. They watch their parents take snapshots on Instagram, tweet, Facebook, and basically live and breathe every social media channel.
When something goes awry in customer service, what’s the first thing an adult does? Complains on social media and takes images of the entire experience. Where are the kiddies? Watching, clicking buttons, hitting send, and reacting to their parents’ social media zeal.
Look at some of these young people and what they’ve done under 10 and 20 years of age:
- Hannah, 9, of British Columbia attacked McDonalds in Oak Brook, Ill. In May 2013 at its annual meeting. She accused CEO in person of “trying to trick kids into wanting to eat your food all the time.” Hannah was backed by Boston activists Corporate Accountability International.
- Sarah Kavanagh, 16, Hattiesburg, Miss. used Facebook and Twitter to get brominated vegetable oil out of Gatorade and Powerade sports beverages. (Hey, Pepsi and Coca Cola, she’s now of age; hire her!)
- McKenna Pope, 13, Garfield, NJ lobbied Hasbro to make a gender neutral Easy-Bake Oven.
Yesterday’s Kids v. Today’s Kids
As said, the floodgates are nearly breached. How many pre-teens and teens are there watching people use social media to get what they want? Back in the day, my brother and his friends used to hit McDonalds, order cheeseburgers, eat half, take it the counter and tell them they found a hair or it was overcooked. They’d get another one and then turn around and ask for fresh fries because the ones they bought were dried out.
Teens are smarter than adults in the online world, and schools are teaching students to think differently, use online tools and take action sooner.
Corporate America is what the kids target; it is ripe for the pickins’.
What’s A Company To Do
- Corporations need to listen!
- Never attack a kid anywhere – in writing, in person, or via a third party.
- Don’t use corporate speak, but don’t treat these kids as if they were adolescent.
- Make the girls into ambassadors; invite them to company functions, ask opinions, hire them, give then a scholarship, recognize their maturity – especially the kids acting alone without help from the activist organizations.
- Respond on social channels…graciously.
- Social media teams who answer posts must be trained to be fully aware that children may be responding. There’s no way to determine age of a consumer especially if the avatar is an animal or shape.
No one said it was easy being on the frontline as a multi-national corporation. Smaller companies need to sit up and take notice from example, too.
One Chicago girl took on the municipality of Grayslake to ban single-use plastic bags. She is 13-years-old.
When any company believes they can ignore social media; think again. When you don’t engage, you cannot respond. When a pre-teen girl gets a brick wall in answer to a smart social media attack, look out…you’ll be on the defensive for years from not just one girl but all her friends across every single social channel.
That train? It left four years ago. If you are not taking social media seriously by now, then hop into your horse and cart and enjoy the ride.