Ever observe a teenager watching TV? Chances are, they’re texting their friends about the show, downloading a song they just heard on it and visiting the show’s Facebook page or discussion board to see what others are saying.
Today’s teenagers (12-17), the first truly digital generation, pose a whole new set of communications challenges.
Capturing their limited attention and inspiring action requires an understanding of how growing up on the Internet has shaped their expectations; the messaging that most resonates with them; and the media they use. Before you start planning your communications campaign, consider these eight insights.
1) Their world is digital.
Teens are just as connected, if not more so, than Millennials (18 to 34). Mobile websites and social media are not an option when targeting this market—they are musts. Teens watch video, seek entertainment, listen to music, play games and talk to friends online. As a result, they are skilled multi-taskers and used to instant gratification. They don’t wait for their favorite TV show to start—they watch it online when they have the time. Teens will gravitate toward brands that offer convenience and availability of services online and at all times.
2) They seek online communities.
Teens use social media to connect, share ideas, make plans and keep their fingers on the pulse of their peers’ activities and opinions, which they highly value. Brands that use social media or establish brand communities to foster conversation and gather valuable feedback will be most successful in reaching this group.
3) They don’t surf the ‘net.
Because they are watching TV, texting friends and playing online games simultaneously, teens spend far less time browsing the Internet than adults. They spend 11 hours and 32 minutes per month online, versus the average of 29 hours and 15 minutes, according to Nielsen. To get their attention, keep your message short. Brief articles, webisodes and ads are best.
4) They are more mobile and less likely to email.
Teens are less likely to email than any other age group, using it more for communicating with adults or in formal situations than socializing or talking to friends. Instead, teens rely heavily on their cell phones to communicate with peers, tapping out an average of 3,364 mobile texts per month. Consider engaging texts that drive teens to interesting content and can be easily forwarded to friends, but make sure they opt in to receive these texts; otherwise, you will be viewed as an intrusion.
5) They’re in the game more than anyone else.
Gaming is their primary online activity—more teens play online games than use social network sites or watch online videos. According to a Pew study, 39 percent of boys say they are daily gamers versus 22 percent of girls. The majority of those boys play five or more different game genres, with the most popular being racing, puzzles, sports-related games and action/adventure games. Want to spend your advertising money where the teens are? Look to games first.
6) They want to express themselves.
Teens want a say in the products and content they use and appreciate opportunities to personalize it. Brands that invite teens to vote or create video, commercials, songs, etc. will see participation. Similarly, games that allow them to design their own spaces or express themselves in some way are most popular.
7) They do care.
Teens are highly cause-conscious. They want to change the world and solve its problems, and want the brands they support to be a part of the solution. But a business donating money toward a cause isn’t enough – a company’s involvement must be authentic and part of its day-to-day operations. Hot issues include the environment and sustainability, bullying, and health (particularly obesity) and fitness. Provide them the tools and education they need to get involved.
8) They have their own language, but it’s theirs.
Those seemingly random groupings of letters and numbers are part of teens’ shared culture and a clever and functional way of communicating more quickly via text messages and instant messaging. Before you add that “LOL” or “OMG” to your communications, consider whether it truly sounds authentic or if it sounds like you’re trying too hard.
The key to targeting teens and other generations successfully lies in understanding their basic characteristics and behaviors. It could mean the difference between a campaign that builds your audience, increases engagement or drives business and one that falls on deaf ears.
*Unless otherwise noted, statistics on media usage came from Pew Research Center’s 2010 Internet & American Life Project.