I'm now sure that his home-movie editing skills will surpass mine by the time he enters high school. He's a digital native who learned to use a mouse when he was two. He's since progressed from playing Word Girl to using iMovie.
Many teens today have similar stories growing up as digital natives. Thus, it was no surprise when I started evaluating the results of a recent survey we conducted that 27% of teens (ages 15-17) upload video, 35% upload audio, and 53% upload photos at least once a month -- double the rates of non-teens.
However, in the same analysis, there are things that shocked me.
1) Email or Facebook? It's a draw.
Whoa! Before you assume my judgment has been compromised by the fact I work for a company with email roots, keep reading.
We often hear people say things like, "I'm more of a texting person," or "I'm more of a calling person." This typography has become a part of our culture. Before sending a message, we consider what channel our target is most likely to respond to. We decided to quantify this by asking how respondents usually prefer to communicate with their friends.
When teens were asked their preference, 36% said email, 35% said Facebook, and 29% indicated no preference. Moreover, more teens use email at least daily than Facebook and more check email during school than check Facebook.
The issue is that 23% of teens have never created a Facebook profile. When looking at teens who have created a Facebook profile, the preference shifts to Facebook (28% vs. 39%).
While Facebook is far and away the most popular social network, it doesn't have a monopoly. Texting and email are more universal among teens.
2) More teens check MySpace than Twitter first thing.
For many teens, the first place they check in the morning is MySpace -- four times the number that start their day on Twitter.
But isn't MySpace dead? No, it's just that MySpace is no longer top of mind -- at least not on the coasts, where marketers and market researchers tend to be concentrated. According to Mikolaj Jan Piskorski, associate professor at Harvard Business School, MySpace hotbeds are in states like Alabama, Arkansas, West Virginia and Oklahoma. Even California, but in Fresno.
Teens' preferred social networks are a function of the school they attend. You're more likely to find MySpace schools in rural areas. While Facebook spread in urban areas, where students are more likely to interact across schools, it has been slower in rural areas, where schools are more isolated.
This presents challenges for national and regional marketers alike. Social networks are fragmented. We need to understand which social networks are most prominent in which areas. Figuring this out can give you a leg-up in certain markets while saving money.
3) Teens are nine times more likely to call than to use social networks for customer service.
So, are social networks are a good tool for customer service? Yes and no, according to our research. While marketers can't afford not to monitor what is happening on social networks, the reality is that customer service issues that make it to Facebook, MySpace, or Twitter point to earlier customer service issues.
Teens, like all consumers, would rather deal with customer service issues in private through your Web site, on the phone, or via email. However, teens are quicker to pull the trigger and post something to a social network when they don't get the issues resolved. They are three times more likely to use social networks as a means of "outing" bad customer service in their second attempt to resolve issues and four times more likely to post to social networks in their third attempt.
The interests of marketers in good customer service have never been higher. Make sure that customer service reps understand the increasing significance of "first call resolution," even if at the expense of the length of time spent on the phone with customers.
Perhaps the most shocking thing for me in conducting this research is to hear consumers talk about interacting with companies as being fun. Hearing how consumers get barraged with 3,000 marketing messages a day can jade us, but social networks are changing some of that by bringing consumers together to engage with brands in a way that's entertaining.
Not sit-back-and-laugh-at-the-funny-Super-Bowl-ad entertaining, but communally entertaining around sharing stories. As one respondent shared, "[Hot Wheels] posted something asking people if and when they received a speeding ticket. It was fun to read everyone's responses."