This may sound a bit hipster-y, but I knew about the teen exodus from Facebook long before everyone else did. How? Because my teenage sister told me so about a year and a half ago.
Yet most of the marketing industry had no clue up until last October, when finance firm Piper Jaffray made the shocking revelation that teens weren’t as active on the main social platforms as they once were. According to results from its social media survey, there had been a significant decline in active teen users on “old school” social platforms, with Facebook taking the largest hit (only 23% of teens considered Facebook to be the most important social influencer when making a purchase).
And of course, mass panic ensued among marketers who feared their young audience was fleeing social forever.
Now, this upsetting trend hit marketers where it hurts for two reasons: 1) Social is considered to be key to marketing to this extremely important age group, and 2) Marketers had barely figured out the key to engaging with them via Facebook, let alone the new and obscure social sites and apps gaining popularity among teens.
Sure, marketers were forced to follow the crowd to apps including Vine, Instagram, Snapchat, and now Secret, the latest app that encourages anonymous sharing. But we’re missing something here.
According to a recent article by Cliff Watson, kids aren’t becoming “less social.” They’re simply using social the way they’re supposed to: By actually interacting with one other.
Here’s what that means.
Instead of being inundated with a myriad of photos, relationship statuses, and branded posts on static platforms, they’re moving on to messenger-oriented apps, such as Kik or Snapchat. Similar to the Instant Messenger services of the old days, these apps enable users to communicate with one another in a private environment that gives them more control over who they interact with.
Sure the fact that parents, grandparents, and even teachers found their way onto social platforms was a good enough reason in itself to make teens run for their lives. But it’s not just the presence of their stalking elders that made them flee.
They were simply getting bored with the same, mundane content of “share this” or “tweet that.”
So, we only have ourselves to blame for making social unsocial. Think about it. We’ve assigned a tremendous amount of value to shares, re-tweets, likes, etc. But what does that mean, anyway? As my co-worker Bryan Evans recently wrote, not many people are actually reading the content they’re sharing. They’re just liking or tweeting for the sake of doing so. There’s no true value. There’s no true connection. Meanwhile, we talk a big talk regarding the importance of building relationships and establishing trust with consumers. Yet even the best of us have become superficial in the process of becoming an esteemed thought leader.
We’ve forgotten what it truly means to be social (in the virtual sense of the word, anyway). It’s easy to get caught up in social metrics, but when your focus shifts to that, you lose your audience.
Staying alert to the latest industry trends is essential to monitoring where teens are congregating, but it’s not only about jumping onto the latest trend. It’s about the content you’re providing them with. So the next time you want to target a teen audience, make sure it’s something they’ll actually find value in.
But if you want an easier way to throw yourself into the conversation, check out iFunny, which is apparently the latest cool app in town.