Commentary

How To Market An App To A Teenager

Today’s teens are a mobile-first generation. They tweet and Snapchat and send over 60 emoji-laden text messages a day. According to Pew, 58% of teens have downloaded apps to their smartphone, and apps like WeChat, Vine, and Instagram take top spots for popularity. So when we set out to launch a mobile app that combines 15 seconds of sound with any digital image, we knew that winning over teens would be essential to our success. Eight months in, we’ve learned some important lessons about marketing an app to teens. Here are the six keys to success:

1. Be real: Teens are extremely sensitive and savvy to marketers pretending to be young. For marketers looking to connect with teens, it’s easy to fall prey to clichés. Trying to “talk the talk” with YOLOs and LOLs will get you nowhere, fast. Instead, focus on creating a user experience that will appeal to teen consumers. From the very first, we designed our app to be fun, engaging, and youthful. This way, its appeal spoke for itself; we didn’t have to try and be something we were not.

2. Understand what they love: It’s much easier to appeal to teens’ passions than try to convince them to embrace something new. For example, teens love music and view it as an essential part of their self-expression. Thus, in marketing to teens, we’ve focused our messaging on the app’s musical aspects. While it can record voice as well as attach music, music is far more important to teens. 

3. Keep it conversational: When marketing to teens, it’s more important than ever to keep social media conversational and transparent. Teens like to engage with us in a personal and relaxed manner. They use social media to talk, we need to talk back. Too many companies write tweets and posts that sound like corporate speak. This is a turn-off.

4. R-E-S-P-E-C-T: In order to market to teens, you first need to respect them. Teens live and breathe being judged every day and don't like it. We try to talk to teens in a 100% non-judgmental way — some of our best users are the shyest, and we've tried to make our brand their friend by respecting their thoughts and feedback.

5. Have fun with it: A brand character is really valuable in marketing to teens. Ours is non-technical and an instant “friend.” She has her own email and gets and sends emails daily, answering teens’ questions ranging from how to add a song from iTunes to an image to what’s her favorite color.

6. Be responsive: We respond to every support question we get. Teens are impatient and tech savvy, and they’ll only allow so many minutes or tries to make the app work. We treat every support question as a big deal, and we frequently give $10 iTunes cards out for them taking the time to write to us. They don't expect it, and they feel important as a result. 

If there’s anything we’ve learned from marketing to teens, it’s that today’s teenagers are incredibly smart, creative and engaged. So, don’t be afraid to ask them for advice: teens love to feel involved and appreciated for their insight. We have uncovered teen beauty bloggers and rising YouTube stars, who have helped us hone our messaging, imagined contests and shared our message on Twitter.

Being open to these kinds of interactions has helped us “crack-the-code” on teen consumers and we’ve been able to adapt the app to better serve teens’ needs. When building your app, consider involving teens in the beta-process, offer prizes to get honest feedback, and build teens’ preferences into your UX from the get-go. This will make marketing the finished product a much simpler (and fun!) process.

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