I see so many different blog posts telling me that teenagers just are not using Twitter. In my own house, this holds true. My teenage kids are still using MySpace almost exclusively, popping onto Facebook every once in a while just to make sure they didn’t miss anything. However, I also live in an area of the country where there are almost as many teens without a computer in their house as there are with. The fact that we have two computers (three if you count my work laptop) is virtually unheard of in our area.
I have to wonder how much of this “teens don’t use Twitter” stuff really is true and how much is based on inaccurate or misinterpreted data. Looking at my followers, and their followers, I see quite a few teens using Twitter and they are doing so extremely frequently.
My thoughts on the matter are as follows:
- There are quite a few teenagers using Twitter.
- Twitter doesn’t ask for your birthdate, so how are we tracking the data of teenagers that use or don’t use the service?
I honestly do believe that there are not nearly as many teenagers using Twitter as there are using Facebook or MySpace. But, to say they’re not using it at all is preposterous. There are quite a few reasons for teenagers ignoring Twitter in droves, though.
The first reason is that Twitter is not Facebook or MySpace. It’s a completely and totally different type of platform. Facebook and MySpace, for the most part, are places to keep in touch (or get back in touch) with people you know. They do that extremely well. Twitter, on the other hand, is a place to meet new people and find new and interesting things, thanks to those new people. Most teenagers live in a bubble until they prepare for college. If a person doesn’t go to their high school (or at least live in their general geographic region), a lot of teenagers will have simply no interest in talking with that person. They do enough learning in school (at least, that’s what they think), and they hate the idea of actually hooking into an online space to learn more.
Facebook and Twitter offer all kinds of tangential services, as well. If you want to play a game, you can do that on Facebook or MySpace (YoVille, Mafia Wars, etc.). You can’t do that on Twitter. Twitter isn’t “fun”. Sure, there can be funny posts on there, but, for the most part, it’s a place to find information. Teenagers aren’t interested in what you had for breakfast anymore than adults are. Since the average teenager has little more to share than what they’re eating or who they think is hot (which, they most likely wouldn’t want to post in a public forum such as Twitter), they’re simply not interested in using Twitter.
So, why are some teens using Twitter? Well, obviously, there are teenagers that are interested in the world around them. I’m sure, if Twitter was tracking our ages, we’d find that the majority of teens on Twitter are in their late teens. They are beginning to pay attention to what’s going on around them, outside of their local geographic region. They are beginning to realize that college is coming soon (or they are already in college) and that they are going to have to start communicating with people that don’t live next door. Beyond that, there are teens using Twitter simply because it is popular, and there are also teens who are genuinely interested in technology and Web 2.0. Had there been blogs and Twitter and all of those things when I was a teen, I certainly would have been a part of them. Instead, I was developing crappy Web sites on Geocities (before they were bought out by Yahoo!) and talking on BBSs.
What does this mean for people marketing toward teens? Well, you can still use Twitter to do so. However, you need to understand that you are marketing toward globally conscious, intelligent, older teens. If you’re trying to market a new NERF football, you’d have better luck trying to market to parents than to teen. However, if you are trying to market a new program at a college or a hot new song, you may very well get your money’s worth out of Twitter. That’s not to say that you can just hop onto Twitter and start bombarding teens with advertising messages. That simply won’t work (read the last sentence again, where I described what kind of teens are using Twitter – they’re intelligent – they’re tech savvy – they’re, for the most part, not going to fall for guerilla marketing). If that type of teenager is your target market, Twitter is a great place to start, though.
With that in mind (and also keeping in mind that these are just my observations, and, just as with the blog posts I linked to above, contain no real statistical evidence), go for it.
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this matter.