“Americans try German food for the first time”. This title of a Buzzfeed with a simple concept video drew over 13.8 million views on Youtube. While other online platforms get a lot of buzz, Youtube is the most used online platform for teens, with 91% using the platform according to a National Cyber Security Alliance/Microsoft poll in the US, and 94% in Germany. Young people aged 13-24 spend 12.5 hours a week on Youtube, compared to 8.2 hours watching traditional television, leading to the fact that Youtube stars have become important role models in teenagers’ lives. Engaging them in discussions about culture and politics through Youtube could be educational and aspirational. German Youtube star LeFloid conducted an interview with Angela Merkel that included questions by interested fans with the hashtag #netzfragtmerkel, therefor engaging them in political discussion. It reached over 5 million views. In the US, Youtube star Tyler Oakley interviewed Michelle Obama, talking about college plans, and the comments show that young people appreciate a positive message that speaks to their aspirations.
Engaging young people through Youtube influencers could be a chance to get them interested in transatlantic relations and think about their aspirations. Especially for young people who might not want to pursue a college education this could be interesting, as Germany has low youth unemployment and relies greatly on the vocational training, which has become a model highly appreciated in the US. A communication strategy including influencers could be a great way to do an online campaign evolving around the actions proposed in 3. Bridging the Atlantic: Towards a New Education Agenda.
The first step would be to find Youtube stars on both sides of the Atlantic who are honestly interested in German-US relations, so the campaign is as genuine as possible. Flula Borg, a popular German comedian living in the US comes to mind, as he speaks both to US and German audiences. There could be many formats to get people interested in the campaign: collaboration on videos between US and German influencers, travel vlogs, “Americans try” or “Germans try” formats to get to know the other culture better. As young people like to watch comedy on Youtube, relatable videos like ‘My funniest high school experience’ with both Youtubers from the US and from Germany could reach them effectively. They could encourage viewers to share stories about their own experiences in their home country or from their exchanges to the US or to Germany. Videos like this are great way to introduce the online platform and transatlantic curriculum proposed in the Atlantic Memo, where young people learn more about culture and history of the US and Germany and discuss the important themes outlined. A crucial factor is that the campaign is completely transparent as it relies heavily on trust and authenticity.
The online campaign could also accompany the proposed working class exchange program to give people a direct insight into the exchange through social media platforms like Youtube, Instagram, Snapchat. It’s a great way to get an authentic first-hand account by the people involved and show young people more about successful careers that are not the result of a college education.
Apart from influencers, decision-makers can take part in the campaign themselves, using the campaign’s hashtag (for example #talkingtransatlantic) on social media platforms, reporting on their everyday work or explain why transatlantic relations are important to them. But since social media is not a one-way street they need to be open to get involved with their audience’s questions, and take young people seriously.
As young people become more and more immersed in online culture, it’s important to meet them where they are and not talking to them, but with them about transatlantic relations at eye-to-eye level.