First, some depressing news; according to a recent Pando article, if you are over 20 years of age then you are pretty much a dinosaur as far as social media is concerned. Which bodes ill for companies who don’t have a savvy, YOLO-ing young intern driving them on in the race to stay relevant.
Blogger, brand consultant and self-proclaimed Millennial spokesperson Chelsea Krost claims that “Millennials trust social media more than religion, government, or Jay-Z, and use social media for content discovery more than search engines.” The stats definitely appear to back this up; Millennials are 56% more likely to find brand content on social media, with 5 out of 6 connecting with companies through social. “Social is the channel of first choice for Millennials, and that will have broad implications for marketing as brands seek to build trust and relationships with this important demographic,” says SDL’s CMO Paige O’Neill.
Essentially this means that if you want to reach teenagers, you need to start thinking like one. Enter Andrew Watts, the 19 year old author of the Medium thinkpiece ‘A Teenager’s View On Social Media, Written By An Actual Teen’, which presents an all-important native point of view on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, as well as smaller niche networks.
The article reinforces what many of us already know to be true; young people are over Facebook. According to Watts, many teens use it solely to check Group updates, and avoid the algorithmic quagmire of Newsfeed entirely. “Facebook is something we all got in middle school because it was cool but now is seen as an awkward family dinner party we can’t really leave,” he says.
Watts suggests that Instagram, currently the fastest growing major social network, offers a simpler, more appealing alternative to Facebook. He cites the overall higher quality of content, the lack of pressure to follow back, the fact that you only see people in your feed who you have chosen to follow, and the unobtrusive tagging feature which doesn’t expose any unflattering tagged images to your following in the way that Facebook might.
Twitter, meanwhile, is a harder sell for teens. “It isn’t extremely easy to find friends on the site and many just use it to complain about school in a setting where their parents/family members (not necessarily employers) are likely not to see it,” says Watts. He believes that teens who record and broadcast every moment of their lives are more likely to do so via Snapchat, which he describes as “a somewhat intimate network of friends.”
Snapchat’s absence of likes and comments are liberating: “Snapchat has a lot less social pressure attached to it compared to every other popular social media network out there.” Watts implies that teens aren’t as naïve as we think, and is remarkably pragmatic when it comes to the security concerns surrounding ephemeral messaging; “We aren’t sending pictures of our social security cards here, we’re sending selfies.”
That isn’t to say that Watts’ opinion should be taken as gospel and marketers hoping to reach teens should jettison their Twitter strategy. Another perspective to consider, as suggested by Pando’s Michael Carney, is that different platforms are specific to different stages in a user’s life, and therefore none should immediately dismissed. The most important thing is to listen to your young consumer.
“Teens may be fickle, and they may be superficial, but they are also trendsetters that can offer a glimpse into the future,” says Carney. “They were the first to demand and later adopt anonymity and ephemerality in social platforms. And, not surprisingly, this audience has been the quickest to adopt mobile and touch-centric user interfaces like those popularised by Tinder and Snapchat… If ignoring history dooms one to repeating it, ignoring the preferences of the influential teen audience is the quickest way to be rendered history.”