Involve Young People

Be Heard:

Using social media to involve young people

Young Australians are some of the biggest users of social media in the world. Social media offers great opportunities to involve them in what you’re doing. But before you start posting or tweeting, you’ll need to plan a social media strategy and policy. It’s not enough just to think “we should be on social media!”
The social media space

Social media can be an important space for young people to shape their identities and build relationships. It can improve learning, access and connections to services. Taking part in online communities can motivate young people to get involved in real life communities.

But be aware that you’ll need to assess the risks involved in using social media. A solid social media strategy and policy will help with this.

(By the way, we’re assuming that you already know a little bit about what social media is and what options are out there. If not, read YACVic’s research report, ‘What makes you tweet?’ Young people’s perspectives on the use of social media as an engagement tool).

Social media strategy

In developing a social media strategy, some important questions to ask yourself are:

  • Why exactly do you want to use social media to involve young people?
  • What are your social media goals?
  • What key messages do you want to promote?
  • Will you mostly use social media to provide information? Or are you hoping to build an audience into a community?

Now think about things from the point of view of your potential audience – what’s in it for them?

Why would someone want to like your page, read your posts or follow your tweets?

Once you have developed your policy you should also ask yourself:

  • Who is your audience?
  • What social media do they actually use?
  • What sort of content will they find valuable or entertaining?
Social media policy

Your social media policy is a set of guidelines for you and your audience. Creating a good social media policy will mean you’re clear on how you handle any possible risks. You’ll need to decide:

  • Who in your organisation will be responsible for social media?
  • How will you keep personal and professional social media identities separate?
  • How will you define ‘appropriate’ content? How will you respond to abusive inappropriate content?
  • What will you do with any confidential or concerning information you receive? What is your duty of care?
  • What terms of use will you create for your audience? How will you explain them?
Some things to remember

Social media is a public space, meaning anyone might see what’s been written, possibly some years later. Think about the sort of impact negative comments or images could have on your audience or organisation.

Social media conversations are different to real life. When people can’t see or hear each other they can’t pick up on subtle tone or body language. Which means they might misunderstand someone’s comments or reactions. Unfortunately, some people can act very differently online to how they might act normally. You’ll need to watch out for internet bullies and ‘trolls’ - people who try and upset or hurt other users.

You’ll also need to be alert to young people disclosing confidential or concerning information. You’ll need to plan for what happens if they do.

Using social media could involve legal risks, including:

  • breaking the terms of any service you offer,
  • copyright infringement,
  • defamation,
  • criminal activity, like harassment, identity theft or distributing offensive material.

To think through any of these ideas in more detail, take a look at:

And if you’re really worried about some of the legal stuff, get in touch with Youthlaw.


Once you’ve created a social media strategy and policy, you can start posting content – the things you want your audience to see, share and interact with.

Give people a reason to like or follow you, or share what you’re doing. Provide information that’s useful, relevant, accurate, evidence–based and up–to–date. Think facts, statistics, links and quotes. Mix up content with entertaining, funny and thought-provoking. Vary between pictures, videos, links and text.

Always give credit to who you took the information from. Tag them in your post or tweet, e.g. “10 great tips for running meetings, via @yacvic”.

Social media channels need regular fresh content to survive. But there's a thin line between informing your audience and annoying them! How often should you post? It will depend on the type of engagement you want - and the time you have available. Read Buffer's Social Media Frequency Guide for some ideas.

Always think before you post or tweet.

  • How will your audience respond?
  • Are you using language and concepts they’ll understand?
  • Is there anything that could be misunderstood?
  • How might someone from a different background to you feel if they read it?
  • Would same-sex attracted people, people in rural and regional areas, Aboriginal Australians and Torres Strait Islanders, people with disabilities, or people from other cultural backgrounds feel OK with what you’ve written?

If you’re unsure, don’t post. Always check links before you re-post or re-tweet them! Make sure they’re appropriate.

Growing a social media community

It takes time to build an online community. Be aware that different audiences can grow in different directions. Social media isn’t a competition to get the most ‘likes’ or followers. It’s the quality of interaction – the amount of comments, replies or re-tweets you get – that’s important. To attract more people to your audience, promote your social media channels as often as possible, online and offline. But remember that the best way to grow your audience will be your existing members sharing your content, so don’t neglect them.

To build engagement:

  • Ask questions and facilitate conversations. Ask your audience for their feedback about your content.
  • Respond to replies and comments in good time. Show you value and respect your audience’s opinions.
  • Give your audience a campaign to focus on. Make it clear why it benefits them (and their friends) to get involved.
  • Look to your audience to drive discussions. If you can, give control to users by making them moderators or administrators.
  • Identify and celebrate those people who are most engaged in what you’re doing. Thank them and credit them for their ideas
  • Let your audience see your human side. Include occasional pictures or video clips of people in your organisation relaxing or being silly. Show young people that it’s fun to get involved with what you’re doing!
Good practice tips
  • Use social media to empower, purposefully engage and include young people.
  • Talk with young people about their social media use. Let them drive your strategy and involve them in developing your policy.
  • A good policy with clear guidelines will support you, your colleagues and young people who use your social media.
  • Commit resources to social media. It takes time and energy to post regular content, moderate responses and grow a community.
  • Organisations should offer professional development opportunities for staff to engage young people through social media.
What you can do now

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