After numerous articles on teen social media usage on CBS News, Today.com, Edudemic and MarketingCharts, it is no surprise that Facebook is dead to teenagers. Do these statistics tell the whole story? Many of these reports fail to include teenagers’ opinions beyond simple percentages, which prompted Andrew Watts, a 19-year-old college student at The University of Texas at Austin to make his own claim on a Medium blog, BackChannel. The article breaks down how and why teens use Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, Tumblr, Yik Yak and Medium. Provided below are some specific details about the four key platforms that can give valuable insight to PR professionals to create more targeted and up-to-date social media campaigns for clients.
Although Watts agrees that Facebook is in fact dead, he mentions that older teens still have accounts and use the site for the messaging feature and its group function. Teens check their Facebook for updates from friends and then log off, avoiding the “awkward family dinner party” that is in their newsfeeds, according to Watts. That being said, Facebook advertising and company pages are no longer productive in reaching teenagers, since ads and postings are not where teens are looking.
Most teen analysis of social media usage has failed to address an accurate description of Twitter. Yes, teens are using Twitter, but they are not necessarily using it to interact with companies and brands. Most teen tweets are personal complaints or other forms of expression, according to Watts. The article does not go very in depth on whether teen tweeters actually follow and engage with companies and brands or if they only follow their friends. Either way, this platform may not be the best for targeting teenagers due to teens’ sporadic usage.
Instagram is a favorite for teens and the most used, according to Watts. This platform is where teens post photos and engage in other users’ content through ‘liking’ and ‘commenting.’ Watts argues that Instagram is the most used because the content tends to be of a higher quality. Users tend to post less and take the time to choose a filter and come up with a catchy caption for their photos. Instagram is an effective platform to target teens, as long as the brand takes the time to produce valuable content with aesthetically pleasing images and witty captioning. Teens are also more likely to engage with a brand on Instagram because they can ‘like’ or comment on a photo without everyone and their mother (literally on Facebook) knowing.
This photo-messaging platform is quickly becoming the new Facebook for teens and young 20-somethings, mainly because weekend photos and embarrassing selfies disappear in ten seconds or less. According to Watts, Snapchat is where teens can express themselves without the social pressure of having to gain ‘likes,’ such as on Facebook or Instagram. However, brands can also use this to their advantage by providing exclusive content to users. Fashion brands Rebecca Minkoff and Free People use Snapchat to give followers exclusive looks at new collections and Fashion Week prep, while the NBA used the app to share behind-the-scenes footage of the 2014 NBA Draft and The Finals. Snapchat lets brand enthusiasts create closer connections to companies they love and allows brands to get creative with their content through Snapchat contests and exclusive photo/video sharing, all of which makes it a great social platform to target teens.
Does this mean client Facebook and Twitter pages are no longer effective? Not necessarily. Late 20-somethings and older still use Facebook and Twitter as a way to connect with brands. If you’re trying to reach out to teens, it may be time to focus on the other channels by throwing a filter on that photo or sending a few six-second disappearing snapchats to draw in teens and young millennials.