Marketing On Higher Ground

With teens now spending more than 31 hours a week online, it's clear where marketers need to be to tap into this demographic. Last year, 93% of teens were hanging out online, but not just "hanging out"; they are actively participating, collaborating and sharing with each other.

Approximately 70% of them are avid social networkers. In fact, it is estimated that by 2011, 84% of teens will use some form of social network. Today's teens are attracted to, compelled by and influenced by these sites, and the WWW is what they are turning to for everyday information.

With the teen demographic huddled so densely online and with this space becoming highly saturated by advertising, marketers need to be savvy and swift in how they reach teens and convert them into advocates of their brands/products. Yet, consumer marketers aren't the only ones giving this some thought. Higher education is also tuning in to teens' online activity.

A report recently conducted in cooperation with the National Association for College Admission Counseling shows that the use of social media in college admissions offices across the U.S. is on the rise. Universities are using social networking tools to attract, recruit and research prospective students. Social media is virtually transforming the college search. Sites offering virtual campus tours and admissions information are helping teens explore and compare schools and narrow down their options before applying.

This new niche provides an untapped opportunity for marketers, who should look for ways to reach the college-bound demographic -- a group that is brand-conscious, educated, motivated and serious about where and how they spend their cash.

As sophisticated online citizens -- 54% read blogs; 33% share files through peer-to-peer; 40-50% tag content; 25% have downloaded podcasts -- this group of teens is looking for digitally compelling content. They need and want to be reached in a way that is real and relevant, through content that is aesthetically pleasing and interactive, providing the kind of social networking component teens are used to, fond of and in which they trust.

Marketers of brands/products hoping to reach the college-bound demographic need to penetrate the online college-search space. In doing so, they need to go beyond the traditional banner ad and find ways to bring life to their advertisements and promotions in a way that has never been done before. Teens want what they do online -- check out schools, apply for scholarships, purchase textbooks, buy dorm room items -- to translate into the real world. Assisting in the college search and promoting higher education is undoubtedly the new wave that needs to be ridden in teen marketing.

As higher education and social media become more tightly linked, marketers can help distinguish their brands, products or services by aligning them to a relevant teen cause -- the college search. What better way to position a brand than in front of an intelligent and inquisitive demographic that is actively looking for useful and relatable information online? By finding their niche in this growing space, marketers can establish relationships with a key demographic that will surely keep its brand loyalty beyond the college search.

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