Although social media has achieved significant penetration across multiple social groups and demographics, social platforms are still most readily associated with teenagers. With this in mind, it is interesting that a recent article written by a 19-year-old male attending The University of Texas at Austin has garnered a great deal of attention, as well as providing a lot of useful information for digital marketers.
Effectively, the article in question gave an enlightening insight on each of the major social media platforms from an adolescent perspective. Given that social media can be a particularly effective way of marketing to this important demographic, it is certainly worthwhile for digital marketers to pay heed to the comments made by this particular teenager.
According to the article, although Facebook is by far the biggest social media platform in the world in terms of numbers of users, it should not be considered an efficient way of reaching teenagers. The article goes as far as to deem Facebook “dead” to teenagers, describing the platform as “an awkward family dinner party we can't really leave”.
Having said that, the article also acknowledges the ubiquity of Facebook among Americans. It has been asserted that over 70 percent off US adults have a Facebook account, and the article makes it clear that it is almost a social expectation at college for young Americans to be on Facebook.
The writer also emphasised the group functionality of Facebook, along with its convenience owing to the ubiquity of its use, and the powerful search functionality contained within the software.
Instagram seems to be very much a growing social media site with young people, and the author of the article instantly confirms this impression. He describes Instagram as “by far the most used social media outlet for my age group.” The writer makes a distinction between Facebook and Instagram, stating that while a lot of people have Facebook profile sand that this probably outnumbers the overall quotient of Instagram posters, those that do utilise Instagram are far more active.
The writer of the article essentially characterises Instagram as a friendly site to use, and one which doesn't put pressure on individual users to follow for the sake of it. It is asserted that this ensures that his Instagram feed is normally comprised of content that he actually wants to see, rather than being steered by the site itself, as in the case of Facebook.
He also offers the opinion that the level of content on Instagram is of a higher quality. Users who interact with Instagram take longer over editing photos with filters, had even utilise brightness and contrast settings in order to make photographs look as good as possible. This creates an overall favourable impression of the site, with content simply looking superior to other social media platforms.
Another big plus point of Instagram from the author's perspective is the fact that this social media platform doesn't feature any links. This prevents users of this photograph-sharing website from being spammed with useless and unwanted advertisements, along with articles that are of absolutely no interest to them.
Effectively, according to the views of the author, Instagram provides a platform which is liberating and user-friendly, delivering what teenagers actually want from a social media site. Both the quality of content and user experience of utilising this social media platform is enhanced as a result of these policies; hence its apparent popularity with adolescents.
Twitter is massive in the United Kingdom, but this American teenager doesn't speak as highly of this social platform. In fact, he instantly expresses a criticism of the site which many uninitiated with Twitter have previously espoused. Namely…what is the point of it?!
This isn't exactly a shining endorsement of Twitter, but he does state that there is a core group at every school which uses the site religiously to tweet, while other groups tend to follow extremely closely. However, the article also states that overall not a huge amount of people use this particular site.
One of the reasons cited for this is that the author asserts that it is not particularly easy to actually locate friends on Twitter. He also makes the complaint that Twitter seems to be an excellent site for one to be followed by strangers, yet still be able to be identified. Additionally, comments made on Twitter can be traced back to the author easily, which does not allow freedom of expression if one does not wish to be tracked by, for example, potential employers.
Overall, the author is extremely lukewarm about Twitter, and doesn't appear to consider it a particularly valuable platform. He suggests that this is the majority viewpoint on the subject among his peers.
Snapchat on the face of it seems to be the sort of site that would appeal to teenagers, and the article also very much concurs with this. Snapchat is seen as an extremely fun site which does not embody the same sort of social pressure which other social media sites represent. The emphasis with Snapchat is one of fun, and it is also notable that this is very much a photograph-oriented site; something which appeals to teenagers, and girls in particular.
To some degree, the author’s comments about the extent of social pressure related to social media in his assessment of Snapchat can be viewed as quite sad. But he does opine that Snapchat offers an opportunity to be one's self in an unpressurised environment, and this is an interesting aspect of this particular social platform.
Tumblr is becoming better known, but still can be viewed as something of a niche site at this point in time. However, the author is surprisingly positive about Tumblr, comparing it to Twitter but with one key distinction. While Twitter promises the opportunity to be followed by strangers while having an identity attached to a profile, Tumblr delivers the former without the threat of the latter.
The author in fact compares this particular social platform to a secret society, which large numbers of people frequent but now one speaks about openly. Tumblr offers the opportunity to be open about your true identity and surround yourself with people who have similar interests and passions. Due to the lack of identity related to this platform, the opportunity for adolescents to truly be themselves on Tumblr is higher than other sites.
The author is also enthusiastic about the interactive elements of this website, and if there is an overarching theme of his assessment of Tumblr it is that this is a social media platform where authenticity reigns supreme.
Another lesser known social media site is Yik Yak. This has apparently achieved a great deal of popularity with the author's friends in college, however, due to the fact that it focuses solely on the content of your posts. This apparently gives anyone the opportunity to be successful on the platform, as there are no followers and no elite or premium accounts.
While the writer acknowledges that this particular social platform hasn't come close to reaching the popularity of other networks, he also states that people use it on a regular basis. Yik Yak apparently offers an excellent opportunity to find out what is going on around the university campus.
However, marketers should bear in mind that this particular social media application has a very strong localisation element, and becomes effectively useless when there are few Yik Yak users within the 10 mile radius surrounding you.
Finally, Medium is aside aimed at the blog writing community, and is rated very highly by the author. Although WordPress has a much larger following than Medium, the writer claims that once teenagers are introduced to Medium, they always ultimately utilise it in order to write and publish their particular blog.
While Medium does not have a recommendation function, what it does present is a cohesive community which appeals to teenagers, even if it is not yet particularly well-known to this potentially fertile audience. However, the author asserts that he feels it will be just a matter of time until this becomes extremely popular with adolescents.
In summary, there are numerous trends which digital marketers can identify from the opinion of this erudite teenager. These can be summed up thus:
Photographic Focus - it is extremely noticeable that the most popular social media networks among teenagers according to the author are those which are centred around photographs. Perhaps it is natural for young people to post as many pictures of themselves online as possible before the inevitable decay of adulthood sets in! But marketers can certainly take advantage of this, and the Digital Tourism Think Tank has even found and advocated previously that visual campaigns aimed at adults are demonstrably more successful anyway.
Female Demographic - however, much though photo-oriented campaigns are popular with teenagers as a whole, it is also particularly worth noting that the demographics related to these sites are extremely female-centric. Teenage girls love to share photographs, and equally love to look at photographs posted by other people, so digital marketers must bear in mind that sites such as Instagram and Snapchat offer an extremely fertile female audience.
Scepticism about Traditional - the biggest social media sites historically remain the biggest social media sites today. The author makes it extremely clear that Facebook in particular is used almost ubiquitously. This would be consistent with the vast numbers of users on Facebook in the United States. However, he also suggests that although the site is popular in terms of the number of users, people don't actually necessarily like using it! Thus, from this information it should be borne in mind that although large numbers of people can theoretically and practically be reached via Facebook, the reception that traditional advertising will receive on such social media platforms from teenagers may be pretty derisory.
Media / Advertising Savvy Audience - in addition to this scepticism, marketers must bear in mind that teenagers are an extremely advertising-savvy audience; particularly in relation to the Internet. While older people are much more readily swayed by advertising online, young people often consider it to be merely an irritation preventing them from doing what they actually wish to do. Digital marketers must utilise creative and genuinely engaging ways of reaching teenagers with advertising, rather than bombarding them with a simple corporate message, as failure to do so will simply result in the advertising being utterly disregarded.
Authenticity v Social Pressure - it is also worth bearing in mind that the author states that many teenagers’ behaviour on certain social media sites is driven by social pressure as opposed to their own actual feelings, desires and interests. This makes responding to the way teenagers behave on social media inherently complex, but what marketers should essentially bear in mind here is that just because a teenager says something on social media it does not mean that this is their real opinion. Marketers should pay heed to the social platforms which the author believes encourage adolescents to present their authentic self to the world, as analysing behaviour and targeting teenage customers on these sites will be inherently easier.
New Platforms Attracting People - finally, it is noticeable from this article that new social media platforms are beginning to attract teenagers. Of course, teenagers are known historically for embracing new trends rapidly, and also for ditching a wide variety of activities and products once they believe that they have become passé. So digital marketers should be aware that large numbers of users on a social platform does not necessarily automatically equate to an active audience, and in fact often they can be more positivity among adolescents for social platforms which seemingly have a relatively trivial number of users.
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