Commentary

Public Display Of Expressions

I don't know, maybe it's the time of year. Or perhaps it's all the back-to-school ads. It could be because I am a new mom. Whatever the case may be, I have kids on my mind. If you've followed my writings you know I have a strong affinity to the tween (8 - 12 years old) and teen market on many levels: safety, privacy, ethnography, etc.

This digital generation fascinates me. Want to know where to download music, find cool apparel, watch movies and clips, change expressions, personalize your IMs, emails, blogs, anything... just ask a tween or teen. Sure they may give you the eyes-rolling-in-the-back-of the-head look, but, hey, go directly to the source.

Let's take a look at this demographic online. According to eMarketer's report, "Tweens and Teens Online: From Mario to MySpace," some 20 million of them use the Internet. And by 2010, 71% of kids ages 8-11 will be online.

They will tell you what they want, how they want it and where they want it. They navigate from device to device with ease and are constant communicators. You may think they cannot process information in such large quantity and with such speed, but they can.

Most will tell you they hate advertising. This makes the bulk of all marketers and advertisers shriek in horror. I'll let you in on a little secret: They are the most brand-loyal. Tweens and teens spread positive (and negative) conversation about brands online all the time.

MTV and the Associated Press recently released a study of young people and happiness. If you want to market and/or advertise to the tween and teen market online, you should check the study out. The study surveyed a total of 1,280 youths consisting of 618 13 - 17 year-olds and 662 18 - 24 year-olds.

They had a lot to say about technology.
-Nearly two thirds of today's young people say that cell phones, the Internet and other technologies make people happier.
-Half of the youth polled said the Internet helps them feel happier.
-Many young people said they'd be more stressed out without technology.
-Nearly half said they never turn off their cell phones, "even when they are trying to chill out."

Another eMarketer study points out that youths 8 to 18 spend fully one-quarter of their media time multi-tasking among media.EMarketer senior analyst Debra Aho Williamson commented, "You simply cannot separate young people from technology; it is part of who they are."

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These studies can arm you with some great facts:
-The younger audience plays more games online.
-Almost all digital youth prefer IM to email.
-Tweens heading toward teen years begin and continue to download music.
-More than a third of youth ages 12 - 14 frequent MySpace.
Most own a mobile phone.

Some 71% of online teens and tweens visit social-networking sites weekly, and more than half of all teens -- and nearly half of all online 9-17 year olds -- reported participation in advertiser-branded interactive activities in the previous month, according to findings from an Alloy Media + Marketing white paper, reports MarketingCharts.

Topline findings include:
-Nearly half (47%) of 9-17 year olds, including more than half (55%) of teens, report participation in one or more advertiser-branded activity types in the last month.
- When asked where their mindshare goes while they multitask between TV and online, by more than 4:1 teens say they focus mainly on online.
- Some 64% of teens upload photos and 42 percent of teens create characters, avatars, or anime to express themselves across their personal profiles.
-More than 90% of tweens and teens say they'd like to hear about one or more types of entertainment products in social-networking sites.
-Close to half (45%) say they'd like to hear about enthusiast or special interest products, such as technology, sports, and automotive.


So as you can see, today's digital youth aren't too hard to figure out. Spend time on any social networking site and you'll be able to see how they interact, communicate virtually, personalize backgrounds, their online personality, icons, music, etc. The bottom line is, tweens and teens online are expressive. Watch and learn before you do a deep dive trying to advertise to them. Do it right and they'll "heart" you.

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