The media’s obsession with how teens are using social media is a necessary evil in a world where media trends are constantly on the brink of being usurped by something new. When businesses are investing so much in platforms that are so transient it is important to know where your audience are migrating to.
However, even well known research institutes such as Pew in the US change their mind about whether Facebook is still in favour with younger users from one year to the next. With such inconsistencies between studies it is no surprise we’re left feeling a bit flummoxed, unsure who to believe and whether at all we should really care.
With so much data at hand now, we have to apply more human layers to be able to understand things usefully. Facebook’s teen users dropping by a minor percentage in one year may seem like an omen from above that we all must bow down to Snapchat, but of course it’s a lot more complicated than that.
Recent research from Deloitte gives an interesting take on the stats, offering up the idea that teens are actually accumulating social networks.
It reveals that as some of the social networks take on roles outside communication, such as entertainment, there’s a more complex opportunity for brands to connect with their younger audiences. According to Deloitte, the average 16-24 year old has three accounts on different social networks, compared with 2.5 for 25-34 year olds and almost double the UK average (1.7). The age group with the widest variety in usage was 25-34 year olds, which Deloitte explains as being because they are “a group that spans the emergence of social media and therefore did not grow up with social media usage as a social currency.”
Deloitte’s idea of social networks being used outside of communication is nothing new but its stats help to add weight to this. It found that over half believe Facebook is a source of entertainment and 36% see social media as a means of discovering new content.
How brands rise to this complex opportunity can be answered both strategically and through technology. In terms of technology, it means brands need to be able to manage their content platforms such as social media and email more coherently.
Strategically Deloitte has uncovered a quandary for UK businesses hoping to master this uncertain landscape. It even goes as far as to say, “after 15 years of disruption from digital the innovator’s dilemma persists”.
According to Deloitte this is a particularly UK problem because we are ahead of our US counterparts with how much variety our young social network users require. In many cases we’ve been able to look to the US for ideas and inspiration but the stats show that the UK users are far more advanced.
Deloitte found US users had been faster to adopt the likes of Snapchat and Instagram but UK 16-24 year olds are much more inclined to have accounts also across Twitter, LinkedIn, Pinterest and Facebook. Overall UK users are managing a more varied social media mix in their daily lives.
It is clear that businesses need to understand that the picture is more than just whether teens like Facebook or not. Rather than being side-lined and distracted by all platform specific trends, it’s more important to think about your audience and how their behaviour should be technologically and strategically addressed. Adopting the human layer and appreciating the opportunity that the complexity offers, the next job is to seek out your data that can tell you more about your audience.