Written with the colaboration of actual teen
Based on the unexpected response to my original post, I’ve decided to discuss some of the social networks that I left out of last week’s post.
I’ll include the same disclaimer that I had before:
For transparency, I am a 19-year-old male attending The University of Texas at Austin…This article will not use any studies, data, sources, etc. This is because you can easily get that from any other technology news website and analyze from there. I’m here to provide a different view based on my life in this ‘highly coveted’ age bracket. That being said, I'm not an expert at this by a long shot and I'm sure there will be data that disproves some of the points I make, but this is just what I’ve noticed.
In this article I will first focus on the social media networks not previously mentioned. Then I will provide a commentary on how I think companies should appeal to the younger demographic, especially in terms of getting people to buy their product or download their app.
YouTube is a website that has truly changed the world. It’s a site that everyone uses, and I have plenty of friends who go on it daily. For an avid internet user it’s almost impossible to ignore YouTube. The content is not only entertaining but also extremely helpful; there have been many classes where I have needed supplementary help on YouTube to understand the material.
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.
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. Getting discovered on Vine can be very difficult, meaning that if you aren’t already popular it can be challenging to get a dedicated following. Based on the social anxiety that can come from posting on social media in a public forum (especially when you’re posting a video), many of my peers left the network after their Vines had little interaction (hardly any likes/loops/comments).
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.
While there is definitely content on the app still, I find that many viewers of Vines often come across them through other forms of social media.
I know a ton of people who visit Reddit on a daily basis (an hourly basis for some) to find all of the hottest news on the web. I've loved Reddit myself (even participating in the gift exchange this year) and its ability to bring forward information I find interesting. Subscribing to subreddits makes sure that content I really care about is front and center.
Not only do I love the links present on the site, but I also love the comment threads as well. The Upvote/Downvote system really makes sure relevant and insightful comments are seen. On other social media sites that do not have a downvote/dislike option (such as Facebook), comments may have inflated value; thus, if someone disagrees with the comment the only real way to show your voice is by replying directly to that comment on the post. These comments can often be negative, thus causing an adverse environment in the comment section. Reddit’s downvote option nicely solves this problem so only the best comments are easily visible.
Similar to Vine, I know plenty of people who consume content from Reddit but none who actually post the content. If you have never been on Reddit, you need to. Their AMA subreddit is a good place to start.
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.
What I would have loved to have seen Google+ do is to really integrate with more of Google’s other products. For example, let’s say I’m in a class project and wanted to collaborate on a document with my group. Currently, many project groups (in college at least) have a really weird system of emailing the Google doc to each other, chatting about it on an app such as GroupMe, and then posting relevant links to the project either in another document or in a group on Facebook. It would be awesome to see Google integrate Drive, chatting through Hangouts, and Keep all into their Communities function in Google+ so teams would have an all-in-one tool they can use to collaborate.
As it stands today, Google+ is a platform that has sadly fallen off the radar for many, myself included. I am hopeful for the future of the network and am interested to see the direction it goes in.
Even though I’ve hardly heard any press talk about it, Plague was the third most recommended app to me (behind Google+ and Reddit) after I wrote the previous article. The process of posting on Plague is simple — add some text, a link, etc., to a post and send it to the immediate network around you. If someone around you likes your post they then swipe up (similar to Tinder) and it spreads to the surrounding network.
Plague also has user profiles in the application which makes it easy to learn more about the person who posted on the app. I can easily see Plague becoming a way for information to spread through an area, especially because as the popularity of a post grows, more people are able to access it.
There is a downside to Plague — it accesses your location even when you aren’t using the app, which significantly drains your device’s battery. This one is under the radar for now but I can easily see Plague spread to a wider audience (pun intended).
Ello made news headlines and got a lot of traction earlier last year. Ello is a social network with no advertising and a strict policy against selling your data to other companies (you can learn more about Ello’s privacy policies here). However, the invite system Ello implemented led to its eventual downfall. I, like many others, read the headlines and quickly wanted to check out the site. By the time I actually gained access to the website, however, everyone I know had already moved on and there wasn't really anything interesting for me on there. While I love the idea behind it, I feel like the implementation and network wasn’t there to make it a product people stuck with.
Oh Tinder. Tinder is for those 18+, so it’s for those near the end of their teenage years. It’s huge for those in college, which helps Tinder be one of the more talked about applications currently on the market. The point of the app is for interested romantic partners to “match” and start a conversation. I have plenty of female friends who post photos of their match and share the many insane pickup lines guys use to try to win them over.
Contrary to popular belief, Tinder does have some social media aspects, one of which is Moments. Moments is a feature in the app where you post a photo to the network of people you’ve matched with and they can “like” or “pass” on the photo. If they “like” the photo, the person who posted the photo is alerted. If they “pass”, then the person who posted the photo is not alerted. What this feature does is spark a conversation between users who may not have previously chatted after initially matching on the app.
Tinder will be interesting to watch as the network develops over time. I've seen numerous applications mimic the ingenious “swipe right for yes, swipe left for no” feature they use. For teens 18+, Tinder is an app either you've used or you’ve seen a friend use—it’s extremely popular.
Swarm was an interesting pivot for Foursquare. What Swarm does is allow users to “check in” to local areas and see where others have checked in as well. I've currently only seen people in the technology industry really use it and don't have any friends currently on the application. It looks like a unique concept, but I feel that location-based posting has now been molded into so many applications that the uniqueness of the service is gone. It also doesn't make sense why you would use Swarm just to publish your current location when you can use Instagram to take a picture of where you are and geotag it, check-in to wherever you are on Facebook, or use location-based Tweets to let your followers know where you are. It just seems like an unnecessary application to have.
Quora is an amazing social network that no one knows about. It allows you to ask questions to people and get answers. Think of it as Yahoo Answers but with each question being unique, responders actually being experts in the subject, and a community that is extremely polite as well as respectful.
I’ve personally asked a few questions on Quora and have answered questions about some topics I feel well versed in, such as event planning and social media marketing. I love following topics I find interesting (such as The President of The United States, Technology, Austin, and Applications) and learning from answers by real experts. What drives a lot of my usage of the site are the semi-weekly email reminders. This gives me not only an overview of popular questions within my specific topic interests, but also tells me about popular questions throughout the network in general. I would not have thought to follow the topic of Light/Optics but a popular post about “Why do we see a red color when we hold our palm to a light source?” was extremely interesting to me!
The genuine curiosity that is at the heart of the network makes me definitely feel like Quora is a social media network to watch. I only know a handful of friends who actually use the site, but once you start you’re hooked.
At this point they just need to get rid of the name and rebrand. No matter how amazing of a site they build, Myspace will always be the butt of a joke. I would just look for a new brand that matches the revitalized direction of the company.
Network Effects and Effective Ways To Market To Teenagers
With so many networks sprouting every day it can be difficult to keep track of all of them. It feels as if a social media network and messaging application have become the new to-do or calendar application. Everyone seems to make one, but there are only a few that take off.
This is because of the very simple concept surrounding network effects. Could you imagine Tinder but with no one to match with? Or Twitter with no one to follow? Applications that rely heavily on people being on them are very common yet most are rarely used, simply because there are too many to keep track of. For other applications, such as Yik Yak (see my earlier post), the application may only restrict you to posting within a 10 mile radius; however, you can still “peek” at where the application is being used elsewhere. Even if you're in some small town with the only smartphone around, you can still get use out of the app.
This is a trend that more social media applications need to follow. If I download your app and can't find anything useful or interesting when I first play around with it, I'll probably close it and forget to go back to it again (unless someone mentions it). So when you first publish your application there needs to be some form of value on there in order for me to be interested. Chat applications run into this issue often because most of them focus only on chatting with friends. If your network is not full of early tech adopters, you're going to find that finding someone to chat with will be difficult (unless if it’s a different kind of chatting app such as Meowchat, which focuses on chatting with someone either nearby or worldwide, so it has a much larger group of users to pull from rather than your immediate network).
I’m always that friend who bugs my group to try a new application because I think it’s awesome and want to get others on board. I know firsthand how difficult it is, even when you know the person, to convince certain people to download an application. Trust me, there are plenty of people like me who hear of an app and will instantly download it just to try it out. But there are even more out there that need a reason.
That’s where a lot of social media applications (and even social media marketing) fail in my opinion. Sure your app might be the best way for you to share photos of your cat sleeping but a description doesn't necessarily equate to a download (or a purchase, for social media marketing) for many people.
I’ve seen a few fantastic ways marketing has been used both in the social media realm or in real life that have equated to students getting extremely excited about an app or product:
Thread—A dating app started by students at my university that is similar to Tinder, but only for students at the same college. This application took off because of the unique methods they used to market it. When they first announced the application, users could download and create a profile, yet they couldn’t access the dating part of the app until their launch. What got people to download the app during this time was that it was a ticket to their launch party at a fraternity near campus. If you downloaded the app and made a profile, you got in. Period. That ingenious marketing technique got a ton of students to download the application and thus, once the dating app did launch, there were plenty of people on the application already. Not only that, but Thread also limits you to only viewing 10 potential matches a day. This makes it so there is never an absence of matches (at least when I’ve been using the application) in the app’s early days.
Lesson to be learned: Give users an incentive to download your application that is outside of the application and they'll do it. Samsung, for example, created a promotion with Kanye West and Jay-Z during SXSW in order to gain traction with their Milk app. You may not have the budget for something that large, but Thread’s experience shows that it’s possible even with a smaller amount of funds.
Taco Bell’s Social Media Accounts—Although some social media sites have mocked the “hip” way brands such as Taco Bell have taken to social media (my personal favorite being Brands Saying Bae), no one can deny that it has really helped gain brand recognition with the younger audience. Looking at Taco Bell’s “Tweets & Replies” section on Twitter, you will find that Taco Bell often replies to just about every tweet that mentions the company. What makes this more fun (and less creepy) is that Taco Bell knows exactly how to interact with its audience by writing quirky responses that often go viral on other sites (such as Tumblr). Taco Bell also really experiments with their social media accounts, my favorite being the social media blackout they did in order to announce the Taco Bell app. It was because of this bold move that I even heard about the application, whereas competing fast-food chains such as Chik-fil-a have an app that I didn't even hear about until randomly stumbling upon it in the app store. Other companies such as Ikea have also found unique ways to use social networks, with their website built inside of Instagram being a perfect example of their creativity.
Lesson to be learned: Engage your users in a way that’s not only targeted but is also something innovative that they want to talk about. Taco Bell could have easily just tweeted “Check out our new app!” and it would not have gotten nearly as much attention. On top of that, the non-intrusive way Taco Bell interacts with its users is often worthy of retweeting or sharing (both of which increase brand visibility). It’s important to really learn your target audience and seek them out—do not expect everyone to come to you. Some of your most loyal customers may not follow you on social media sites, but a simple “Favorite” or reply to a tweet on Twitter or a “Like” on Facebook for a post they made can make all the difference.
Getting users engaged on social media platforms to either purchase your product or download your application is an extremely difficult task. I hope I’ve provided a bit of context to help plan successful social media strategies as well as tied up loose ends with my previous post regarding specific social networks. If you wonder how accurate my claims may be or if teenagers “really do think” what I’m saying, there’s a simple way to check—just ask one.
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