Who is at the forefront of the next wave of social apps? TV pundits? Tech bloggers? TED speakers? Try middle schoolers.
You’ve heard of Instagram, Snapchat, and Kik, but what about AskFM, Keek, or Voto? While the Millennials may have led the charge into the always-on connected era, the post-Millennial generation (the iGeneration?) is forging a new subculture in which they interact both on and off mainstream channels. If you want to be in the know about the next big thing, look to the kids in junior high. Those tweens know their screens. And like it or not, they will anoint the next wave of social leaders.
Killer apps really can kill…other apps. Remember the talk that texting would replace emailing among the young? And the speculation that Facebook would be the end of the (in-person) class reunion? And now there is talk that teens in significant numbers are abandoning Facebook for other social networking options. Or are they?
While the debate rages on, I think it is clear that they are not abandoning these services altogether; they are evolving their use. Teen engagement on Facebook is waning for a number of reasons. One of the biggest anecdotal reasons is parents. Many moms and dads are using Facebook, “friending” their teenage kids. As a result, teens are flocking to other apps to have more private and intimate conversations. A Pew Internet and American Life project shares the same point of view, revealing that many teens lost their enthusiasm for Facebook, partially due to the drama that having adults on the platform creates.
Long before the digital age, young people sought out ways to hide at least part of their lives from adults. That hasn’t changed, only now they can do it in multiple planes of existence. Even if the Facebook teen exodus is not to the extent that some have claimed, the core point is clear: the biggest shifts in tech typically start in the youth arena, caused by that human urge for more independence.
Today’s tweens and teens have never known a life offline. Simply by embracing new ways to hang out with one another online, they are defining a way of life for future generations.
The app culture rocketed when the iPod Touch was launched. Teens helped fueled the overall growth of apps because they didn’t have access to premium smartphone devices. By September 2010, Apple introduced the iPod Touch that included FaceTime making it the premier teen communication device. At that time, more than 250,000 apps were available on the App Store and a new series of texting services like KiK, MessageMe and What’sApp were born – freeing them from expensive texting plans.
Modern kids are the masters of digital communication. It’s transitioned from Big Man/Woman on Campus to Big Man/Woman Online, amassing as many followers as you can, all from the relative safety of your bedroom. Is your tween already an Internet celebrity without you knowing?
Well, check out Benjamin Lasnier. As of this writing, he has over a million followers on Instagram ... and couldn’t be older than 13. Coca-Cola, meanwhile, has roughly 52,000 followers. Benjamin’s profile says singing is his passion. His Instagram fame, Justin Bieber looks and a couple of rough YouTube videos landed him a deal with Sony . Brave new world indeed.
The king of all social media is none other than Justin Bieber. He has amassed an amazing following:
YouTube – combined 3.4 million
Instagram – 7.4 million
Twitter – 42.6 million
Facebook – 56 million
All by age 19.
Bieber, of course, is a superstar in the real world. But the Internet mints superstars daily, some of whom parlay that into more diverse success. And plenty of those superstars are still too young to vote … or even drive. The proliferation of apps will reach a tipping point eventually—there will be too many go-to channels. But, one thing won’t likely change. If you want to know what app or digital trend will be big, ask someone young. They know the way, and can point you in the right direction.