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19 Feb 2014

Don’t sell to teens, give them experiences

Posted on February 19, 2014 by

Facebook has come under scrutiny in recent months due to its dwindling user figures. But we have been told it’s its younger audience it’s losing. Despite making changes to its apps, News Feed and Timeline algorithms, the site declared it was struggling to grow teenage user numbers. And surprisingly, the chief financial officer was one of the first to admit it.

However, Social Bakers argues that whilst teens are active on multiple social media channels, Facebook is still one of them. But just because teenagers are on Facebook, it doesn’t mean that they are engaging with brands.

The research by Social Bakers also shows that the three biggest brands in the UK on Facebook are Coca-Cola, Skittles and Amazon UK. Yet the brands with the highest post engagement rate are Home Bargains, Royal Mail and dog food company Cesar UK – not exactly three teenage-focused organisations.

Social media should be understood as it sounds. It’s about being social, keeping in touch with friends and acquaintances. It’s not about buying into brands, particularly for teens. They don’t go to Facebook for the latest fashion trends, gadgets or other consumer goods.

Also, the Social Bakers research showed that there has been a boost in older Facebook users, which will have an impact. Not many teens enjoy reading their grandma’s latest updates about episodes of Cash in the Attic. I’m 24 and I still feel unnerved by the fact that my mum likes every single status and photo I upload. So I can completely understand where they’re coming from. This, combined with the fact that the site is now 10 years old and no longer seen as the ‘hottest’ network to be on, has contributed to changing attitudes among younger users.

The channels gaining in popularity among teens include Instagram, Snapchat, Kik, Vine and Whatsapp, which offer a private service where users can engage directly with each other. It all goes back to this idea of more personal engagement, something which those sites can offer.

Instagram now also gives users the option of sending images directly to each other. Brands like Levi’s, Red Bull and Topshop have chosen it for their social media campaigns and it’s hardly surprising, given its popularity among teens. Instagram has even published a special handbook for brands to guide them on how to use the channel to benefit them.

But is it simply a case of choosing a channel teens are most active on and assuming it will work? No, there’s much more to it than that. The messaging and approach needs to be something teens welcome and are used to. They want to believe that they are engaging with people on the same level. Not someone who is trying to sell them something. They want special experiences, instant communication with people who share the same interests.

YouTube is an example of this. Do you ever look at some of the comments on YouTube videos? Some teens use it as a means of communicating with people who share the same music interests.

Lastly, mobile’s influence continues to grow, and One Direction recently used Kik, the instant messaging platform, to run one of their recent campaigns. They shared exclusive content and connected their fans so that teenagers with the same interests were brought together in one space.

So remember that you can’t be everything to everyone. Teens need communication with people they believe share the same interests. And they want it to be instant. They don’t want to be waiting around all day for a reply.

So if you’re a brand that wants to influence teens, don’t try to sell them a product – give them an experience.

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