9 Myths You Thought Were True

A teen, a Millennial and a Mom walk into a restaurant for dinner. The Mom has a coupon for 10% off that she got for "liking" the bar's Facebook page, the Millennial checked in on Foursquare to get a free drink, and the teen has nothing and is too busy texting her friends to care.

Teens are a unique audience. They have their own needs and social drivers that are unique to their stage in life. Many marketers assume that, because teens are young, their needs are the same as Millennials and that they will interact with brands in the same way.

New research is showing that teens have their own needs and behaviors that are different from other generations. If you're a marketer looking to reach teens, it's vitally important that you always have your finger on the pulse of the teen audience. As technology evolves, teens are finding their own uses for it that are unique to their personal and social needs.

There are some myths about marketing to teens that every marketer can learn from.

Myth #1: All teens want smartphones
While it is true that teens want phones, smartphone adoption has only reached 31% as of 2010. If 90% of teens own a cell phone, why aren't they buying smartphones? The answer is actually pretty simple: texting. Teens send an average of 3,339 texts per month, and typing that many messages on a touch screen is a lot more difficult than typing on even the most basic phone keyboard. That's why BlackBerry is one of the most popular phones for teens.

Myth #2: Texting is the way in
We already know that teens love to text. What some marketers fail to realize is that teens only love to text with their friends. Only 10% say they want companies to contact them via text message. There are some instances where a brand can use a texting campaign to engage this audience, but most teens see texting as "too personal," and aren't inviting brands into their personal space.

Myth #3: Teens use Facebook the way we use Facebook
Don't count on just your Facebook page to reach teens. Teens interact with brands on Facebook if they feel there is a real benefit to them for doing so. They're not "liking" every brand on Facebook that they purchase, and even if they do, they're not likely to come back to your page after the first visit.

Myth #4: Teens are going to join Twitter
Recent findings from the Pew Research Center's Internet & American Life Project show that only 8% of teens have embraced Twitter. Other studies also show that most teens don't have any interest in joining Twitter in the future (76%). By the time they decide to use Twitter, they probably won't be teens anymore.

Myth #5: If you build it, teens will come
Great ideas go to waste when no one knows about them. Many marketers believe that creating a social experience for teens will spread itself through word-of-mouth and online sharing. A good social media activation can always benefit from a mass-media driver.

Myth #6: Teens are online all the time
Teens spend roughly two hours per day on the Internet, and almost half of that time is spent on entertainment. Teens don't need the Internet to interact with their friends -- they see them all the time, and if they're not with them, they're texting them. If you want to reach teens online, you have to find a way to bridge their online and offline experiences.

Myth #7: Teens don't watch TV
Teens watch over 100 hours of television per month -- most of which is not viewed on TiVo, Hulu or Netflix. They may be texting or playing games while they watch TV, but they're definitely still watching it.

Myth #8: Teen word-of-mouth happens online
Teens do not spend most of their online time communicating with their friends. In fact, over 80% of teen word-of-mouth happens offline. If you want to tap into teen word-of-mouth, find a reason for them to talk about your brand offline.

Myth #9: Teens love online video
Teens use the Internet for entertainment, and online video is an important component of that. Branded video can be a great way to engage with teens as long as it doesn't come off as one long commercial. Teens aren't going to be tricked into thinking that your "viral video" is anything more than an advertisement.

Tags: teens
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3 comments about "9 Myths You Thought Were True ".
  1. Byron Wolt from Speak to Students , October 21, 2010 at 8:57 p.m.

    What a GREAT article and insight! The first paragraph was especially funny and accurate. I present and market to high school students in classrooms on an almost daily basis and your information is spot on! As long time youth worker turned youth marketer I especially appreciated your observations in myths #2, #3, #5, #8, #9.

    #2 Teens obviously love texting but if you send them unsolicited texts they will text their entire network of friends about how you pestered them.

    #3 Teens will interact with you on Facebook and other social media if they see a benefit/value to them that is worth receiving future marketing messages.

    #5 Yes you can attract people with trendy online content, BUT trends change quickly and there needs to be a more solid connection

    #8 In my experience with conversion rates marketing to HS students, the best word of mouth is developed through positive interactions face to face. Today I gave 7 presentations at a high school in Dubuque IA and by the 2nd presentation students were already coming in to my presentations with interest because they heard good things about it.

    #9 maybe most importantly teens are not opposed to being marketed too BUT they DO NOT WANT JUST to be marketed to. If you offer a benefit to them personally or a cause they believe in beyond just a product or service, your connection to them will be much stronger

    Be genuine, up front, offer relevant content and meet teens where they are - in school - and you have a very good chance to develop current and future customers from today's teens.

    Thanks again for the information.

  2. Daniel Coates from Youth Pulse, Inc. , October 24, 2010 at 7:15 p.m.

    Hey David ...

    Teens *are* Millennials. Howe and Strauss coined the generational term 'Millennials', defining their birth years as 1982 to 2004 in their book, 'Meet the Millennials'.

    Late Millennials certainly have all of the characteristics you mentioned, most notably accelerated mobile behavior when compared to earlier Millennials as well as older generations.

    However, all youth that are currently aged between six and twenty-eight are still Millennials.

  3. David Trahan from Mr Youth , October 25, 2010 at 5:52 p.m.

    @Dan,

    I wouldn't necessarily follow Howe & Strauss on this one -- especially given the need states that are drastically different between the different age groups. There are a lot of companies that spice and dice the "millennial" group as they see fit, but I see teens are a generation that is different from Millennials and therefore cannot be grouped in with them. Over the next 5-10 years as teens get older their behaviors will vary from the current 18+ Millennials.