Teens today are growing up in a vastly different world than I did, due in large part to the emerging technologies that surround them. This young group knows no other world than one in which information is always at their fingertips; a world in which everyone is “connected.” It’s not surprising that they use the Web more than any other demographic – according to eMarketer 93% of 12-17 year olds are Internet users versus only 74% of the total U.S. population.
How teens interact with the social Web can be valuable indicators of future trends in social engagement and can give us some insight into what to expect in the new year and beyond. Their social behavior will be key to helping marketers inform social marketing and engagement strategies. The trend that stands out for me in 2012, and should be top of mind for marketers, is teens’ level of comfort with the transparency of the social Web. Unlike older generations, young teens are more willing to share information about their lives, their activities, and their whereabouts – regardless of whether it’s an active or passive action. With teens’ penchant for social sharing in mind, marketers must look to three technology developments to inform their marketing strategies for teens in the coming year: Facebook’s Open Graph and Timeline, mobile as an engagement channel and the rise of teen use of Twitter.
Embrace Open Graph and Timeline with Branded Apps
Facebook continues to be teens’ preferred social network and therefore it’s important for us to pay close attention to the recent changes made – open graph, ticker and timeline – and teens’ reactions to these changes. There has been a lot of discussion about the implementation of the Open Graph, which essentially makes sharing one’s activity on the social Web much more seamless; a more passive action. Judging by teens’ heightened comfort with this transparency (at least more than their older counterparts), marketers should consider embracing the open graph more seriously in the coming year. Don’t assume that teens are willing to share everything that you produce however, as they’ll still be selective in what they like, comment on, or share. So as I’ve said and will say time and time again – it’s all about producing quality, thought-provoking content if you want to get noticed.
The concept behind Facebook’s new open graph is that it makes it easier for teens to see what their friends are doing on the social Web, beyond just liking photos or commenting. And the Ticker feature acts as the broadcasting system for Open Graph. Through this real-time feed, users can see what music their friends are listening to, what articles they’re reading, what workout they just completed and soon much more. Brands should take this as motivation to create apps that encourage teens to share actions, like “listen,” “ran,” “read,” and hit that “approve” button to allow Facebook to broadcast how they’re using these new apps.
More sharing equals more engagement by current users and, more importantly, will encourage their friends to use the app with them. Start thinking about how these sharing actions can also be used in your own branded timelines to tell a larger story. For example, Xbox could create a branded app that allowed users to easily share which games they were playing, which levels they had reached, and when. Xbox could then incorporate that information into their Timeline to show larger trends in gaming and players’ game play habits. There will be a lot of potential here to feed this information back into the Ticker and Newsfeed spurring organic traffic.
Make Your Content Mobile-Friendly
Mobile social usage is on the rise and more than 350 million active users currently access Facebook through their mobile devices. Teenagers make up a huge percentage of that number. According to a survey conducted earlier this year by Piper Jaffray analyst Gene Munster, “Teen attitudes toward smartphones – and, in particular, those made by Apple – have never been stronger or more favorable.” And, based on the input from the 4,500 students surveyed, 37% of teens expressed plans to purchase an iPhone in the next six months.
So, what can marketers learn from this trend that we’re seeing in young teens? You must make your content suitable for mobile. For retail brands, ‘mobilizing’ your content should take into account mobile retail consumption, which has grown 74% in 2010 compared to 2009. Mobile marketing (location-based offers and coupons) and mobile commerce are two big opportunities for marketers to engage with teens in the upcoming year.
Other brands may be more suited to capitalize on the increase in mobile social network users. According to eMarketer, by 2016 the number of mobile social network users is expected to reach 1.7 billion users, a 210% increase from 2011. Marketers have to be aware of this growth and start building the foundation of an effective mobile social engagement strategy today. Deliver content that allows users to quickly consume and respond. This content should drive an emotional response, prompting users to react to content through liking or commenting, or even better, sharing with their friends. I told you’d I’d continue to come back to how content is really king!
Keep Your Eyes on Twitter
The last trend to keep on the radar is Twitter. While a recent study showed that only 16% of online teens used Twitter, it’s the growth that counts. Compared to 2009, this figure has more than doubled and we expect it to continue. In general, Twitter is an incredible source of real-time content consumption. For brands specifically, Twitter has the potential to become more than just a customer support tool. In December, Twitter launched brand pages allowing advertisers to create richer, more engaging, customized destination pages. We’ll be monitoring this development closely and so should you.