Teens and Social Media Marketing

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Kendra Bracken-Ferguson, Digital Brand Architects
Kendra Bracken-Ferguson, Digital Brand Architects

Marketers hear the aphorism repeatedly: Be where you customers are. The challenge then becomes determining that “location.” In the case of teen consumers, some social media watchers say Facebook is so yesterday. But the data differs.

Facebook remains the go-to social network for teens, with 94% of online teens saying they have a profile on Facebook and 81% saying it's the social network they use most often. Only 7% of online teens say they use Twitter most often, while 3% say they use Instagram most often, and 1% says Tumblr.

But this is only part of the story.

Much has been lamented about the decline in teens' use of and membership across various social networks and how they're flocking to different platforms. In some cases the stats align; in others (depending on the source or the particular agenda), they differ. 

Fundamentally, this speaks to the shift happening around social consumer behavior—in particular how, where, and when consumers engage, connect, and interact around Gen Z. And while they may look to other platforms for their personal needs, teens still see Facebook as one of their favorite places to connect and engage with brands and entertainment content.

Marketers need to take a different approach to understanding what is fueling adoption on certain channels and focus on the three core items that drive teens to gravitate towards a specific platform: relevancy, community, and value.

As a brand or retail marketer, ask yourself:

1. Is the content teens are getting still relevant to their lives? And if so, what aspect of it? 

2. Where is their community? Are they exposed to people and influencers that interest them?

3. Does the network add value to their lives—connecting to friends, getting information, offering lifestyle elements that drive the conversation, or tangible perks or benefits that keep them coming back for more?

I liken it to the ratings on The CW versus MTV, with the latter being the “old school” youth network. While MTV continues to struggle for social media relevancy, the former has two of the most socially engaging shows on the Internet: The Vampire Diaries and Supernatural. Young audiences are going where the content is relevant, gives them a sense of a like-minded community, and adds something beyond conversation. (i.e., the network name doesn't matter as much as what they're getting out of it.)

For example, while Tumblr or Instagram may be attracting an increasing number of teens, the presence of companies like Get Glue on Facebook have proven that engagement through entertainment perks work, as do curated social retail experiences much like that of Forever 21 (who created a one-stop shop for all their content on Facebook through social feeds) and continues to dominate the space with more than 8 million fans versus just 1 million on Twitter.

Like adults, teens are gravitating towards platforms that provide intrinsic value to their personal needs. Similar to the network analogy, it's less platform specific and more content and context specific.

There will always be something new, and it's human nature to explore new things.  But, ultimately, it's the conversation and context that drives fulfillment, as well as the understanding that as audiences grow and change, so too must the social media platforms with which they engage.

Kendra Bracken-Ferguson is managing director of Digital Brand Architects.

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