Teens are using social media differently from their parents. Just as older generations feel like they’ve finally got a grip on this online social world, the rules are changing. As marketers, this is significant. If part of your marketing strategy is to reach younger generations (and it should be!) then it’s important to understand where and how young people are participating, and what those trends mean for the future evolution of social media and communication.
While teenagers still use public social networks such as Tumblr and Facebook, we’re also seeing them move away from these public networks, and instead rely on more private modes of communication via messaging apps on their mobile devices. There are several reasons for this. For one, as the gray-haired parents of these teens come online, social networks become a place where you have to behave yourself. And teens are also increasingly aware of digital privacy. They’re turning on all their privacy settings on Facebook, or setting up different accounts for different personas. Using tools like Snapchat, they think they are less likely to leave a digital footprint with their photos. We’ve been telling young people for a while that what they post to social networks can have a long-term impact as future employers and the like can see everything they’ve done. It appears the message has gotten through.
So what are teens doing online?
- Chatting with personal friends via messenger apps on mobile devices
- Sharing photos via tools such as Snapchat and Instagram
- Playing games with one another through messenger apps
- Sharing music with one another
- Sharing their location in hopes of connecting with others in real life
Understanding how teens use social networks has great significance to marketers. While networks such as Facebook are still highly important to reach the Gen-X and Boomer crowd, if part of your strategy is the younger generation, you will need to incorporate mobile apps into your plans (for prospecting, communication and training.) Youth are showing us they prefer to interact online and via mobile with people they already know in person, so personal connections are even more important. And photo sharing is becoming one of the most important activities that teens are engaging in online.
So what can we learn from all this?
- Personal connection is still key. Young people are showing us that they are more interested in connecting online with people they already know. As direct sellers, this is our sweet spot. We have to be careful to never lose the personal connection that we build with people.
- Mobile rules. Young people are most comfortable communicating via their mobile devices. Your company’s communication strategy for both current and future distributors MUST take mobile into consideration, and you need the infrastructure to support this method of communication.
- Visuals matter. In the age of “selfies,” photo sharing is an extremely popular activity. Your brand MUST be present on image sharing sites, and your photos must be fun and sharable if you wish to appeal to younger markets.
- Games engage. Many generations are spending a great deal of time gaming online. And not just Halo players. Middle-aged women are just as likely to play games online as young males. Think about how you can incorporate gamification elements into all aspects of your business. From training to communication to rewards, there are many places it makes sense to gamify. Direct selling has always been good at rewarding behaviors. At creating game elements to encourage behaviors. We simply need to take what we’re already good at, and move it online. This will make our opportunities more engaging and attractive.
Teenagers are the first generation that has never known life without technology. These digital natives live in a vastly different world from older generations. Privacy, communication, interaction…these are all different from what you likely grew up knowing. By taking the time to understand what teenagers are choosing to do online based on their experiences as digital natives, you can craft an attractive direct sales opportunity that will attract future generations.
What have you experienced related to teen use of social technologies? Has it changed the way you use social? Have you made changes to your business because of this? Would love to read your thoughts in the comments below!