The December 12, 2005 issue of BusinessWeek featured an article called “The MySpace Generation” which talks about American teens and how they use the online space. NewWeeks says: They live online. They buy online. They play online. Their power is growing.
Teens and twentysomethings are the first group to grow up fully wired and technologically fluent. They own computers, laptops, Blackberrys, and cell phones that keep them connected to their peers.
These high school and college students:
- Are online now more than ever.
- They are members of social networking sites such as MySpace and Buzz-Oven.com as a way to establish their social identities.
- They regularly write in their own blogs and check on their friends’ blogs.
- They use Instant Messenger (IM) conversation about the evening’s plans with a few pals.
How Teens Use Media
Fully 87% of 12- to 17-year-olds use the Internet, vs. two-thirds of adults, according to the Pew Internet & American Life Project.
Teens also use many forms of media simultaneously. Fifteen- to eighteen-year-olds average nearly 6 1/2 hours a day watching TV, playing video games, and surfing the Net, according to a recent Kaiser Family Foundation survey.
A quarter of that time, they’re multitasking. The biggest increase: computer use for activities such as social networking, which has soared nearly threefold since 2000, to 1 hour and 22 minutes a day on average.
Why are online social networks becoming their medium of choice? Because they can, among, other things:
- Learn all about the hip music scene, which carries a huge amount of social currency offline.
- Find a friend to nurse you through a breakup.
- Locate a mentor to tutor you on your calculus homework.
- Get an address for the party everyone is going to.
Among these virtual hangouts is MySpace.com, whose stats are striking:
- Its membership has nearly quadrupled since January alone, to 40 million members.
- Youngsters log on so obsessively that MySpace ranked No. 15 on the entire U.S. Internet in terms of page hits in October, according to Nielsen//NetRatings.
- With 20 million of its members logging on in October, MySpace now draws so much traffic that it accounted for 10% of all advertisements viewed online in the month. (This is amazing because MySpace doesn’t allow those pop-up ads or spyware. In fact, the advertising can be so subtle that kids don’t distinguish it from content.)
More up-and-coming networks such as Facebook.com, which connects college students, and Xanga.com, an conglomeration of shared blogs. There are 300 smaller sites, such as Classface.com, and Photobucket.com.
Although networks are still new, they’re already creating new forms of social behavior that blur the distinctions between online and real-world interactions. In fact, today’s young generation largely ignores the difference as they live comfortably in both worlds at once.
How Consumer Companies Hope to Benefit
Coke, Apple Computer, and Procter & Gamble are making a relatively low-cost bet by experimenting with networks to launch products and to embed their brands in the minds of hard-to-reach teens.
Major companies should be exploring this new medium, since networks as teens transmit marketing messages “person-to-person, which is more credible for them.
If companies can figure out how to talk to youths in their online vernacular, young consumers may follow brands offline.
In sum: Kids don’t buy stuff because they see an ad. They buy stuff because other kids tell them to. So, if you are publishing blogs that try to reach the youth market, try to research their world and then plan accordingly.