Today's Teens Force Brand Agility Tomorrow

Marketers not currently targeting today’s teens may be in for a wakeup call when teens become their customers. Teens completely turn what most marketers think about when it comes to social media behavior upside down.

A recent study from Piper Jaffray shows that Facebook is still chosen as the most important social media site for 33% of teens, but that’s a 9% decline from where it sat in fall 2012.

Other platforms like Twitter and Instagram have increased their importance, 3% and 5%, respectively.

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However, no platform is seeing a drastic increase in importance in the lives of teens, overall. In fact, teens are looking beyond top social networks to services like Wanelo, Vine, Snapchat, Kick and 4chan as alternative platforms.

That should get the attention of marketers. Teens are incredibly diverse in their online behaviors. They have no issues jumping from platform to platform, never putting down roots in just one. They’re ready for the next thing even if it means leaving the old thing.

This is a trend marketers can’t afford to ignore. Over half of both male and female teens, say social media impacts purchases. The opportunity is there, but marketers will have to work much faster than ever to succeed.

If You Think Things are Fast Now…

Assuming teens continue this behavior, marketers are going to have to rethink their approach to social media. Today, most marketers evaluate a few platforms and end up establishing presences on only the biggest ones. They plant roots, recruit followers and distribute content. As today’s teens become tomorrow’s adults, however, marketers may not be given the time to plant roots. Instead, they’ll have to evaluate and reevaluate at a much higher rate than most do today.

Marketers will need to find ways to be more agile as tomorrow’s adult consumer will constantly test the limits and keep marketers on their toes.

No More Roots

It’s only going to get more difficult to establish a presence and build a following in a social environment with a constantly changing, fickle group of social media users. The approach for most brands of creating a presence, building an audience and distributing content, while still important, may not be as sustainable with audience shifting from platform-to-platform.

Brands will need to adopt greater levels of advocate activation. Identifying their greatest advocates, establishing a dialogue and giving them the reasons and means to share will allow brands to distribute their message no matter the platform because their advocates will do it for them. Brands will rely on higher levels of true online word of mouth, not creating more channels to push messages.

That doesn’t mean having a brand presence will be unimportant. Brands that are able to provide utility to their customers and able to add relevance to brand, category and even adjacent (categories not directly related to the brand but allow room for the brand to communicate a POV) conversations will have room to use their own platforms to distribute messages.

Don’t get comfortable. Social media marketing has not been around for too long, and the first group to grow up with social media interwoven into every aspect of their lives will soon be adults and your biggest customers. They move quickly, which means brands will need to as well.