When I log on to my Twitter and look at my homepage, one person’s posts always turn up every hour: my 15 year-old cousin’s.
Statistics have shown that the average daily media exposure for 8-18 year olds is 10 hours and 45 minutes. With 81% of teenagers using social networking sites, I am impressed with how well teenagers keep their content fresh. My cousin’s tweets are different from her Facebook updates, which are different from her Instagram and Pinterest ones. How does she find this much content to share?
As a teenager posts on social networking sites, there are three things that stand out to me - being unique, showing emotion, and agility. With little restraint and a lot of personalization, teenagers are limitless to the content they produce. The marketing world could learn a few key points about marketing from teenagers. Consider these three.
1. Using Social Networking Sites To Be Unique
Every person has the desire to feel accepted, as well as unique. Uncertain of their identity, teenagers want to remain part of a group while sticking out as unique individuals. Today, teenagers turn to social networking sites to present themselves as someone who they aspire to be, while connecting to their friends and peers.
According to a Pew Internet study, 74% of teenage girls agree that “most [teenage] girls use social networking sites to make themselves look cooler than they are”. Similar to the standard cliche, “dress for the job you want, not for the job you have”, social media helps you appear as your aspirational self rather than your actual image.
Teen celebrities like Willow Smith and Jaden Smith recreate their image via online sources. Offline, Willow Smith appears as a normal 12-year-old pop star, while online, she emerges as a poetic, rebellious teenager. She posts phrases such as “I ain’t worried bout nothin” and “I feel like Alice in Wonderland without dainty hands” on her Twitter.
Social media offers an easy way to express your aspirational brand image to others.
An example is Dove’s “Real Beauty Sketches” campaign - a short film that demonstrates Dove’s claim that women fail to see their true beauty and are their biggest critics. A forensic artist sketches the portraits of women based on their own self descriptions and then based on that of a stranger. Rather than creating a campaign saying that Dove products make you beautiful, Dove presents a social experiment around the most significant problem women face: self-confidence. Dove communicates with its customer base that, by giving attention to the issue, it understands and cares. Resonating with a huge audience, the ad campaign attracted 3.17 million shares in the first two weeks - a runaway viral advertising success of 2013 so far.
Like teens, Dove used social networking sites to raise their brand awareness and appear as more than a typical personal-care item manufacturer. They appear as a unique company that cares for not only your skin, but also “you”.
2. Showing Emotion Through Personalization
A significant portion of a teenager’s tweets, posts, statuses, and videos are a catalogue of their emotions. As they post their daily updates, teenagers have no filter when it comes to sharing private information and feelings.
In Pew Internet’s 2012 study, teens were found to share a wide range of information about themselves on social media sites, including their real name, photos of themselves, and their relationship status. Whether a teen writes about her celebrity crush, self image, pet cat, or a new pop star, her posts are emotional and lively, seeking the attention of her peers.
Using the internet as an outlet for their feelings - whether happy or sad, teenagers expose their vulnerability to others - presenting themselves in a light where others can celebrate or sympathize with them. In this process, teens are able to build personal bonds with others.
Through expressing emotion, advertisers gain a consumer’s trust in their brand. In return, the consumer remains loyal.
During the 2012 London Olympics, Procter & Gamble produced an ad campaign titled “Raising an Olympian” that caught viewers’ support through evoking emotion and personal connection. The campaign celebrated moms everywhere who have made their children’s dreams come true. With mothers being the most significant consumers of their brand’s products, this commercial honored and thanked them. Through sentimental music, words, and various real visuals of Olympic champions and their moms, the campaign took you on a journey through the child’s life, making you forget you were watching a commercial. Through its emotion and sensitivity, P&G’s campaign recognized and rewarded the vulnerable emotion that its audience receives while watching its videos.
3. Be Agile For Fresh Content
With Snapchat’s 10 second photo-sharing, Vine’s 6 second video, and Facebook constant updating feed, teenagers are quick to update and share information with others. Bite-size pieces of content are replacing less-frequent, longer-form content for younger people, as texting and micro-messaging remain popular. 63% of teenagers send out more than 60 texts a day with 23% of teens owning a smartphone. With the habit most teens have with sending a variety of bite-size information to friends, it is important for teens to create and share a lot of new information daily.
Justin Bieber posts about 8+ different posts a day on his Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to keep his content fresh and exciting for his fans. From videos to photos, retweets to concert information, Justin Bieber’s posts are unique to each networking site, and updated frequently.
With the luxury of being a magazine, Rolling Stone posts 20+ posts of content daily - mixing in promotions, pictures, facts, and articles. Lowes, on the other hand, has one daily piece of unique content on each of its social networking sites. With less content, Lowes does not remain as easily agile. However, with impressive campaigns on multiple social networking sites, Lowes is able to make a mark on the consumer. The DIY company launched an ad campaign titled #fixinsix using Twitter’s Vine. These 6-second stop-motion videos offered quick and content-filled information for simple, but frustrating problems around the house.
Understanding the bite-sized nature of today’s communication, Lowe’s Vine campaign resulted in favorable press in the weeks following the launch. “The press recognized Lowes “Fix in Six” as the first branded effort to “crack the code” of Vine, using it as a strategic communications device rather than a novelty” (Cannes Lions). Across multiple social networking sites, Lowe’s campaign generated 28,000 mentions in roughly a week from launch.
Teenagers have a lot to teach us about the future of online content, and about taking an agile approach to engaging with your target audience. Giving a unique, authentic voice to digestibly small tidbits of infotainment, shared broadly, is the way today’s teens use social media. It will likely be the way tomorrow’s brands do the same.