Doing It for the Kid(fluencer)s: How Brands Can Ethically Engage in the Digital Kids’ Market

Opinion: Safety and transparency should be keywords

The under-13 digital media market is currently seeing 25 percent year-on-year growth
Highwaystarz-Photography/iStock

Influencer marketing is on the rise for brands wanting to engage with young children and their families. YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Twitter are home to a vast array of content creators who reach millions of children under the age of 13. And many brands are taking it even one step further by adding teenage influencers, or “kidfluencers,” to their marketing strategies—just look at Band-Aid, CoverGirl and Target. It’s all about relatability.

In fact, the youngest member on Forbes’ World’s Highest-Paid YouTube Stars list for 2017 made an estimated $11 million last year, and he is still in elementary school. His channel, Ryan ToysReview, boasts more than 10 million subscribers.

According to PwC’s Kids Digital Advertising Report 2017, the under-13 digital media market is currently seeing 25 percent year-on-year growth. Kids are an important demographic for marketers not only because of their impact on their parents’ buying decisions, but also as future adult consumers.

Engaging, without pushing it

The opportunity is clearly there for brands, but many struggle to appropriately engage with this specific audience of young children and their families. When it comes to kid(fluencer)s, the rules of the game change.

Over the past two years, many companies have come under fire for using influencer marketing to target kids. For this young audience, influencer marketing comes with several obstacles, all of which brands must consider (and perfect) in order to do it in an ethical way.

So how can brands get it right, without pushing it too far?

Absolute safety and transparency

When it comes to creating content for kids, it’s essential for parents to feel confident that what they’re seeing is kid-friendly and authentic. Safety and transparency should be keywords for brands exploring this arena.

This means that content creators must be clear with their audiences if videos include any kind of paid promotion (#spon #ad). As a brand, being aware of the risks of not complying with Federal Trade Commission regulations is your responsibility. And communicating this to your ambassadors should be a key part of your collaboration.

YouTube gives its users an opportunity to create and share their own content. Because of this, you can never be sure that what one user’s account deems as kid-friendly is going to meet a parent’s standard of appropriateness.

With sponsored content, however, it is often reviewed and confirmed by an agency and can therefore give parents some peace of mind knowing that what their child is watching is suitable.

Transparency laws and regulations are helping to make a parent’s job easier in controlling online safety.

Parents rule

If you want to engage with an under-13 audience, understanding their parents is essential. This means that you’re not only creating content for kids, you’re also creating it for parents—two different target audiences, each with their own platforms and content consumption behavior.

While the use of social media spans across both parent and child generations, the way they use it differs.

Research has revealed that children start surfing the web at the age of two and spend a significant amount of time watching online media in place of typical television—we’re talking cartoons, educational shows and unboxing videos, and mostly on YouTube. This activity grows with age.

Conversely, YouTube analytics show that the parent age bracket (35 through 55) is the fastest-growing viewer segment, with beauty, lifestyle and travel vlogs being the most watched. Moreover, 62 percent of mothers today use social media websites multiple times per day, with Facebook and Instagram topping the charts. With the growth of “Mommy” and “Lifestyle” blogs, it is clear that these women are seeking out information about parenting specifically.