Speak The Language Of Our Next-Generation Core Consumers

Every day, I am continually reminded of why social media are the future of marketing. When we look to our teens, who are tomorrow's core consumers, we see them only accelerating in key areas that fuel social media. Teens today are intense about sharing and collaborating -- the very principles of social media's foundation.

According to the Pew Internet and American Life Study, 93% of teens use the Internet, and more of them than ever are treating it as a venue for social interaction -- a place where they can share creations, tell stories, and interact with others.

Also compelling, data come from eMarketer with estimates of over 17.7 million teens (12 to 17 year olds) will be using social networking sites by 2011.

My eldest daughter is on the cusp of being a teenager, and I find her media choices and socialization habits quite telling. She already spends a tremendous amount of time online -- I would estimate four times as much as she does with a traditional medium like TV. She plays Internet games wherein she IMs with friends, watches video on YouTube and participates in her school's blog. She is a fierce multi-tasker and is incredibly creative. We often see her creating personal greeting cards and working with photos as she is very content-driven, like most of her friends. We hear from other parents and kids that, as they mature through high school, virtually everyone gets on Facebook and some of the more artistic kids gravitate to MySpace. It is very common for kids to become friends with other kids in high school first on Facebook before talking to them in school. They get to see what music, books, and TV shows they like and who they are friends with. If they decide to then become friends with them (offline), they will talk in school.

When I was in high school, it was at the end of the year that we got a yearbook and signed everyone else's. Now the yearbook is a living thing, and kids decide if they will sign their "walls." This social currency extends into college, career and family. These networks are being built early with teens.

Teens tend to share everything. There is a low level of censorship, and that is what makes it that much more real and, ultimately, viral amongst their friends. Teens are really not thinking about the day when they will apply to universities and how this content may appear to an admission counselor. To them, it is the here and now only.

For many adults, it seems to be a race to see who can have 100, 250, 500 friends. But teens don't see the number of friends as a badge of honor and are more interested in keeping their circles closed and keeping the messaging very personal. They are using sites like Facebook and MySpace as replacements for email. A recent Nielsen study certainly supports this; it cites social networking is now more popular than email.

Brand marketers need to note that teens represent tomorrow's core consumers, and they will look and act very different than today's.

Marketers need to think long and hard about their media choices and to "skate where the puck is going, not where it has been." Looking at the 12-18 demo, the majority of its members' time is not just online, it is social. Marketers need to make sure the dollars are consistent not only with where their future consumers are spending their time but that they are also engaging them with the collaborative tools they use and support.

It is important for brands to be recognized as innovative leaders and the media choices they make to reach their consumers will cement perceptions of innovative leadership. By leveraging social media to reach these core constituents, they will tap into passionate, excited consumers enabling strong bonds to be built.

As we know from tried-and-true marketing principles, a strong bond builds loyalty, loyalty drives preference and preference drives mindshare and consumption.

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3 comments about "Speak The Language Of Our Next-Generation Core Consumers ".
  1. Gerard Mclean from Rivershark, Inc. , June 11, 2009 at 1:20 p.m.

    What you think you know about Teens and their use of Internet tool is not what they are doing. The trouble with analyzing teen behavior is it is done with a "grown up" paradigm.

    http://gerardmclean.com/the-real-11-18-social-network.html

    If you are already 18, you're already too old to understand wheat teens are doing and sure as heck are no longer an expert.

  2. Mike Yamada from self employed , June 11, 2009 at 2:20 p.m.

    I think that this is a very good overview of social media, but it does not go far enough. The sentence,"By leveraging social media to reach these core constituents, they will tap into passionate, excited consumers enabling strong bonds to be built." is very true, but how do we leverage it? Isn't that the real issue?

  3. Barth Hague from Wichita State University , July 2, 2009 at 2:36 p.m.

    I don't question that teens' Internet use has grown. But how do you balance your claims with the results of the latest Nielsen report, "How Teens Use Media"? Your claims just don't seem to be supported by the hard facts.