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Teen Girls: Sisterhood, Not Social Media, Sells

girls shopping

Everything you've been hearing about teen girls living on Facebook, friending their favorite brands and influencing hundreds of future purchases with the single click of the "like" button? A new report from Euro RSCG suggests it's all wrong, and that teen girls share shopping secrets the way they always have -- with only their closest friends, and even then, not online. 

"Facebook and MySpace are very public," Karina Meckel, director of strategic planning, tells Marketing Daily. "But while 8 out of 10 girls use social media, we've found that teen girls don't like to talk about shopping there. When they find a good deal, they're interested in tipping off a few close friends, not broadcasting it. These girls aren't moving and shopping in flocks, as many marketers believe. They closely select very small, intimate groups -- it's a sisterhood."

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About 65% of the 100 girls ages 13 to 18 included in the study say that when their favorite brand or store has a sale, they tell their best friend or sister; 57% say that when they find out about a new trend, they share it with a best friend or sister. But only 5% do so via Facebook (where she typically has 100 or so friends), and only 5% use IMs. Even factoring in Twitter and email, only a quarter of teen girls turn to social or online media. The rest use word-of-mouth, usually via phone or text message.

The study also found that just 19% say they become fans of favorite brands on Facebook; 56% say they don't do so.

For teen girls, shopping with these close friends is also important: On trips with her BFF or sister, she spends 23% more than when shopping with two or more friends. "Being able to rely on an honest opinion is what really matters to her," Meckel says.

In fact, 72% say their sister/best friend knows them better than anyone else -- and that rises to 84% among 15-year-olds, and 87% of 16-year-olds. And these are cherished friendships: Overall, 64% believe a sister/best friend is the most important relationship in life; among 15-year-olds, 74% believe that.

The study also found that while teens are influenced by national trends and brands, "they are also hyper-local," she says. Some 52% typically shop at places near home, and 75% prefer to shop in stores rather than online.

While their desire to fit in is as intense as ever, mid-teens are also especially eager to stand out -- at least a little. While 59% of teen girls overall wish they could customize or personalize more of their clothing and accessories, 84% of 15-year-olds do. And 74% of 15-year-olds consider themselves stylish, trendy, or cool, compared with 58% overall. "Girls don't want to be the first person to discover the trend," she says. "They want to be the second one, and the one who tells others about it."

The study also found that the recession has not affected the shopping habits of teens all that strongly. "They're still getting an allowance," Meckel says, "even if circumstances have forced parents to lower it." But they are far more practical and price-focused than many marketers assume. "Overall, these girls are not very impulsive shoppers, and are willing to wait. They're looking for the nexus of brand and price coming together, and they are patient."

2 comments about "Teen Girls: Sisterhood, Not Social Media, Sells ".
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  1. Doug Pruden from Customer Experience Partners, March 18, 2010 at 11:43 a.m.

    Everybody has been throwing around the term "social media". It apparently is accepted as including all blogs plus Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, MySpace, etc.

    I think this research helps point out the need for us to start defining our terms more clearly. Certainly there is a "Public" Social Media which reaches a broad and unrestircted audience, but there is also "Private" Social Media that also uses digital media to interact with a narrower group of friends and relations.

    Public Social Media is indeed Facebook, Twitter, YouTube, MySpace, etc. Private Social Media includes texting, emailing, phone call, and even good old face-to-face conversations (though it's not digital - it needs to included somewhere) .

    A great deal of reserach is showing us how much trust consumers place in the word of mouth and recommendations of friends, neighbors, co-workers, etc. Private Social Media though grabbing less headlines and reaching fewer consumers, delivers that trust at hgher levels and thereby generates awareness, consideration, and even impacts purchase.

  2. Ed Keller from Engagement Labs Inc, March 19, 2010 at 9:14 a.m.

    This research is a powerful reminder that the vast majority of word of mouth takes place offline. We have seen this consistently during four years of continuous tracking research about word of mouth. But everytime we share it, the question is asked, what about teens. And our answer, as Euro's research shows too, is that even among teens offilne word of mouth dominates.

    Further, offline word of mouth has higher levels of credibility and leads to greater intent to purchase. What is maybe most important for marketers to know and understand is that the brands that get the most talk on social media are quite different from those that the get the most talk offline.

    As brands begin to adopt "listening strategies" this new research is an important reminder to listen to offline conversation in addition to mining what is talked about online. The research tools are available to do both.

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