Marketers are obsessed with Millennials (snake people). So obsessed, in fact, it’s a wonder they haven’t taken out a restraining order against our profession. We simply can’t get our fill of behavioral studies, media usage data, and trendspotting reports to give us insight into the seemingly elusive, ever-evolving Mind of the Millennial.
Recently, however, a few actual real-life teenagers (see, they do exist outside of Powerpoint decks and demographic targeting data) voluntarily stepped forward to go on the record about how they and their friends use social media. It’s as if marketers awoke one morning to find Millennial manna covering the ground like morning dew.
- A 13-Year-Old’s View on Social Media – Part One and Part Two
- An Apathetic 16-Year-Old’s View on Social Media – Part One and Part Two
- A Teenager’s View on Social Media – Part One and Part Two [written by a 19-year-old]
These articles, while anecdotal in nature, lead their readers to a very clear conclusion: the awareness, understanding and usage of social media networks varies greatly by age. There is no Easy Button, no one-size-fits-all social media network that reaches “teens,” and the teenage demographic itself is fragmented into subsegments that have very different patterns of communication.
Teenage Points of View on Various Social Media Networks
What follows is the Cliff’s Notes version of what each teenager had to say about some of the major social media networks. Check out each of the articles referenced above to see the full versions and the authors’ thoughts on some additional social networks not listed below.
13-year-old: “Facebook is seen as a way for old people to connect with other old people that they haven’t seen for decades. To be completely honest there is no use case for teens my age. The only time anyone used Facebook was when FarmVille and Zynga were still a thing. Like I mentioned in my last article no one knows Instagram is owned by Facebook (probably a good thing for Facebook).”
16-year-old: “I don’t use it. It doesn’t appeal to me. I just don’t wanna use it. I have other things. I have… Instagram.”
19-year-old: “It’s dead to us. Facebook is something we all got in middle school because it was cool but now is seen as an awkward family dinner party we can’t really leave. It’s weird and can even be annoying to have Facebook at times. That being said, if you don’t have Facebook, that’s even more weird and annoying. […] Facebook is often the jumping-off point for many people to try to find you online, simply because everyone around us has it. If I met you one time at some party, I’m not going to try to check Twitter or Instagram to find out who you are. Instead, many opt for the ease of Facebook and the powerful search functionality that gives you results of people who you actually have a chance of knowing (unlike Instagram, whose search functionality, although it improved slightly in the last update, leaves much to be desired).”
13-year-old: “Instagram is HUGE in middle school. This may sound funny but for some people, who you follow and how many followers you have dictate school relationships. Although most people only have 2 or 3 pictures on Instagram they go on Instagram every day just to check how many followers they gained. Not liking a picture your friends put up is the highest of insults. At the end of the day Instagram is like your passport in middle school. […] P.S. No one knows or will believe that Instagram is owned by Facebook!”
16-year-old: “Tell me what you like about Instagram. The pictures, and stuff… Um… it’s more of a like, uh, you can see what your friends are doing and stuff. It’s not like Facebook where like, someone just posts like, ‘Hey, I’m at the beach, yay.’ You can see a picture of the beach. And then there’s a comment that says, ‘Hey, I’m at the beach.’ Did you know that Facebook owns Instagram? I did not know that. How does that make you feel? Cheated.”
19-year-old: “Instagram is by far the most used social media outlet for my age group. Please note the verbiage there—it is the most used social media outlet. Meaning, although the most people are on Facebook, we actually post stuff on Instagram. […] Those are some reasons why many people my age tend to use Instagram more than they do Facebook. Everything about the application makes it less commercialized and more focused on the content, meaning more teens are inclined to visit it. When we do visit the application it is a much more pleasant experience so we are more inclined to Like and interact with the posts more. This increases our interaction with the application, meaning we will use it more, etc.”
13-year-old: “Twitter is seen as Instagram with no pictures. Barely anyone gets it and those that do think its just for adults and that its a copy of Instagram. However, there is usually a core group of kids at school who get and use Twitter religiously (i’m one of them).”
16-year-old: “I don’t have one. Do your friends use Twitter? I don’t think so. You’re not sure? Yeah, I don’t know.”
19-year-old: “To be honest, a lot of us simply do not understand the point of Twitter. There is always a core group at every school that uses it very religiously to tweet and another group that uses it to simply watch or retweet, but besides that many don’t use it. It also isn’t extremely easy to find friends on the site and many just use it to complain about school in a setting where their parents/family members (not necessarily employers) are likely not to see it.”
13-year-old: “Most adults haven’t even heard of Kik but it’s the most used social media platform by FAR. Kik is the messaging platform. I’ve seen a lot of tech reporters talk about how teenagers use Snapchat, WhatApps and a number of other messaging platforms but most teens my age haven’t even heard about those. Kik has a special feel to it. It feels like it was made for us, and us only.”
16-year-old: “Group Me?”
19-year-old: “[Kik is] a messaging application that is mainly used for messaging people on Twitter I guess? I don’t know anyone who uses it. The only time I ever hear this application is for the joke, ‘Aye you got Kik?’, normally seen as someone trying to ‘spit game’ to attract a partner. It’s really difficult for me to describe it here but it isn’t super relevant. [GroupMe is] by far the most used group messaging application in college. Everyone has one, uses it and loves it. GIF support, the ability to ‘like’ others messages, even trivial things such as being able to change your name between group chats all make this both a useful and enjoyable application. GroupMe also works for literally any phone or device…it is on desktop, iPhone, Android, and can work over text as well for those who may not have a smartphone.”
13-year-old: “Snapchat is seen as a cool app but most people can’t find a use case for it. Many people get it just to see what it is, and many feel like it could be a very useful app but at the end of the day if none of your friends use the BEST social app there is no point to use it. Snapchat’s demographic is the 15–25 year old range so I think that’s when teens start to use it.”
16-year-old: “It’s pretty cool. I like that. What do you like about it? I like that it disappears, like if it’s like a bad picture or something, just joking around, it’s like 3 seconds or something. But people can screenshot stuff like that. Like if you make a stupid face, or something. My friend always screenshots those. And then he posts them on Instagram.”
19-year-old: “Snapchat is where we can really be ourselves while being attached to our social identity. Without the constant social pressure of a follower count or Facebook friends, I am not constantly having these random people shoved in front of me. Instead, Snapchat is a somewhat intimate network of friends who I don’t care if they see me at a party having fun. […] Snapchat has a lot less social pressure attached to it compared to every other popular social media network out there. This is what makes it so addicting and liberating. If I don’t get any likes on my Instagram photo or Facebook post within 15 minutes you can sure bet I’ll delete it. Snapchat isn’t like that at all and really focuses on creating the Story of a day in your life, not some filtered/altered/handpicked highlight. It’s the real you.”
13-year-old: “Vine is a fairly new social media app so not many people use it, which also means most people haven’t made up their minds on whether they like it or not. Although very few people use it, most people have seen a Vine on Instagram, Twitter, Kik or a number of other ways people share vines. Currently making a vine seems intimidating but I think as Vine becomes more popular we will see teens starting to post vines regularly.”
16-year-old: “I never used it. But they’re funny, they’re really funny. A lot of them are like, really interesting, it’s like, people are comedians who do that kinda stuff. Like, it’s hard to make something funny happen in eight seconds. Six seconds. I thought it was eight. When you watch a Vine, where are you watching it? I actually, I don’t have a Vine. I saw them all over YouTube. Cause it came up in my YouTube thing. Like people make collages of Vine stuff. That’s how I saw them. I kind of almost got a Vine cause my friends had Vine and stuff. And they posted videos of me when I wasn’t paying attention.”
19-year-old: “Vine is an application where I feel a lot of people in my group consume content but do not necessarily make content. Many of my friends follow famous Viners who really put their heart and soul into creating awesome content for the app. […] However, an interesting trend I am noticing is regarding the Vine application itself. I know few people who actually have the Vine application on their phone; instead they find funny or interesting Vines from sharing on Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr or YouTube. On YouTube, ‘Vine Compilations’ (a group of Vines pieced together, normally from a similar user or topic) are extremely popular.”
16-year-old: “Do you use Tumblr? Tumblr, no. I’ve heard of it though. What have you heard about it? It’s where girls go to post their feelings.”
19-year-old: “Tumblr is a place to follow/be followed by a bunch of random strangers, yet not have your identity be attached to it. Tumblr is like a secret society that everyone is in, but no one talks about. Tumblr is where you are your true self and surround yourself (through who you follow) with people who have similar interests. It’s often seen as a ‘judgment-free zone’ where, due to the lack of identity on the site, you can really be who you want to be. ”
13-year-old: “Now Google+ is in an interesting situation. Everyone has an account because they use other Google products but most people hate Google+. Meanwhile there is a hardcore group of users who live on Google+, they check it every day and share everything that’s happened to them. They have a very tight community between each other and also stand by each other in common arguments of which social media site is the best.”
16-year-old: “I know what it is. I don’t have one…because I find it pointless. It just doesn’t make any sense. They kinda ruined YouTube and stuff, Google Plus. They ruined YouTube? They like changed the comments section so comments don’t always go through. And they changed how like, some people, the most liked comments go to the top, and the people who don’t get likes go to the bottom, so it’s hard for people to connect.”
19-year-old: “I personally do not know anyone who actively uses Google+. I’ve heard from some friends that Google+ is really awesome for photos and Hangouts, but that’s about it. My only friends on Google+ are those who are more interested in technology. I personally abandoned the service because I found it difficult and tiring to categorize every single person into different “circles” and then keep track of all of those groups.”
13-year-old: “Most teens have a love-hate relationship with YouTube either they have a channel themselves and subscribe to another 30 or they don’t use it at all. A lot of kids have a YouTube channel of their own with a few dozen videos. Each day they check their analytics to see maybe they suddenly jumped from tens of views to millions. YouTube is also one of the most influential networks ‘YouTubers’ are like celebrities and many teens aspire to one day become one.”
16-year-old: “Oh I’m on there all the time. I watch gaming videos, and stuff. My dad just got me into like a fishing guy. Like, he fishes. And records it. And posts it on YouTube. Like he fishes in the sound and stuff. So like, now I know what fish are there. And stuff. But I mostly just watch gaming videos.”
19-year-old: “Teenagers have a wide array of interests so it is hard to pin down specific YouTube accounts or topics they specifically like. I know plenty of people who love watching Let’s Plays on YouTube (videos where you watch someone play a video game while they talk about what’s happening in the game as well as other topics), and others who love watching beauty tutorials and makeup guides. This is what makes YouTube so awesome — there’s something for everybody. Personally, I religiously watch The Phillip DeFranco Show on YouTube instead of typical cable news. And instead of watching late night television I often watch highlights of sketches from Jimmy Fallon, John Oliver, Jimmy Kimmel, and more on YouTube. YouTube has been a major part in replacing the amount of time I spend watching television due to the high quality of both original content on the site and more companies agreeing to put clips of their broadcasted content on the site.”
This post also appears on Word of Mouse.