Discover The Trends, Remember The People

Nielsen recently released overall numbers for 2012. While some statistics were expected, others were surprising. Among the most baffling is the fact that only 6% of teenagers said that Twitter is their main social media source. 

How can this be? Hasn’t Twitter been one of the fastest-growing social media platforms over the past four years? The answer is “yes.” But the reason Twitter has gained so much popularity may be precisely the reason it is not popular among teens. Twitter is, in its simplest definition, a news-sharing service. If there is one thing we know about teens, it’s that they are one of the most narcissistic demographics out there (sorry to sound so harsh, but it’s true). Twitter doesn’t allow them to express themselves the way that they desire. Sure, there is the occasional observation or cry of angst, but, overall, Twitter is a window into a world bigger than their own – and they don’t care. 

While teens eventually grow up, there will always be a new batch to fill their shoes, and their mentality will be the same. The cycle will continue. So what is the lesson here? Well, for one thing, stop putting so much effort into reaching teens through Twitter. But to that point, start realizing that marketing to teens is a totally different animal than marketing to adults, especially through social media.

In the past I have stated that visual is the future of social. Instagram absolutely exploded this year. It was so much so that Facebook wanted a piece of the action, while Twitter didn’t want any part of it (recently opting to try its own picture-sharing service, ending any relationship with Instagram). Instagram receives hundreds of millions of fan views a month, with a large amount of those being teens. However, what separates teen users from adult users is the type of content they post. While adult users typically post photos of landscapes, family trips and (rolls eyes) their food, teen users are by and large posting pictures of themselves and their friends.

But the differences between adult and teen usage doesn’t stop at photo sharing. It goes without saying that engaging consumers through social media will reinforce loyalty and create conversation. Yet, for teens, many other factors must be considered. While adult social activity is focused, teen activity is unpredictable. 

Pew Research came out with a survey in 2012 that revealed even more surprising statistics regarding teen behavior. For example, mobile campaigns, which so many brands are clamoring to utilize, may not be worth it when targeting teens. Only about 23% of teens, age 12 to 17, currently have smartphones versus nearly half of all adults who use mobile. Building upon that, 88% of teens are more likely to access social media via desktop or laptop over a mobile device. How about this? Only 6% of teens admitted to using email daily, while 39% said they hardly use email at all. 

I could go on and on with numbers about teen use of social media and technology. However, what should ultimately be learned from this is that audiences cannot simply be clumped together when it comes to marketing campaigns heading into 2013. We as marketing professionals are obsessed with the latest and greatest trends. Yet, we have to keep in mind that what is good for some is not good for everyone. 

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