Do you remember when everyone was freaking out about teens abandoning social media networks? Well, really everyone was freaking out because they believed teens were leaving Facebook in droves. Facebook, the website that had been promised to advertisers and marketers as the be all end all access point to a new and ever growing group of consumers. Cliff Watson, an advertising professional and blogger for Medium, says the problem isn’t that teens aren’t using social media, it’s the way we define it. He's right.
I’ve discovered that nothing will make you more aware of your own age than your growing disconnect with teen culture. Social media to adults is defined by a set number of outlets, mainly these:
That graph paints a rather grim story for the future of social-media. Some mistakenly assumed that if teens weren’t using traditional social media outlets, they weren’t using it at all. That’s just not accurate. Teens just access social media differently. Nielson reports that 43% of all U.S. mobile phone subscribers own a smartphone, with the vast majority being under the age 44.
Piper Jaffray’s teen survey shows us how that trend breaks down among teens. Forty-eight percent of teens say they own Apple smartphones, with 62% reporting they plan on purchasing an iPhone as their next phone. Ninety-one percent of teens reported they intended to buy a smartphone, yes, 91%.
How does this translate into what social-media services they use? Teens just aren’t interested in the antiquated social-media profiles that Facebook provides them. Cliff Watson says that could be due to the fact that adults use Facebook to stay in touch whereas teens don’t need an additional social media tool to stay connected to people. They have school, where they are connected to their friends everyday. So they don’t need to know everything about what’s going on in their friend's life. Facebook profiles just give too much information and teens see it as an unnecessary burden. While Facebook does have Facebook messenger and Poke, there is still no way to circumvent the bulky traditional Facebook profile system.
What are they interested in? According to that same Jaffray study, the top five write ins for apps teens are using are:
Why these? One, their parents are less likely to know about them. That’s probably one of the greatest reasons to adopt any program if you’re a teenager. Snapchat let’s you quickly send pictures which then disappear. Kik offers you the ability to send messages outside of traditional messaging services that your parents could be checking. These apps have also been developed with the knowledge that smartphones and tablets will continue to occupy a larger share of the market. Kik is fully compatible with HTML5, let’s users create sketches and memes without leaving the messaging program. In short, it’s alleviating redundancies. People don’t want to be dependent on their laptops or desktop computers and they certainly don’t want to have to deal with ads and other "suggested posts."
Teens are early adopters of tech, so if you want to find the way social-media is going, turn to them. Facebook Home wasn’t singularly developed to compete in the smartphone market, it was developed because people don’t access Facebook on computers anymore.
The biggest mistake people can make in interrupting the data from the Teen/Social Media study is believing that it doesn’t portend things to come. Companies that fail to develop vigorously for mobile and tablet devices will just occupy a smaller share of what is relevant and what is useful in social media.