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What teenage social media users want from brands

Teenagers and tweens are profitable customers for companies to have, but modern teens are different from those that have come before them. Previously, if a brand wanted to reach teenagers and convince them to make a purchase, they needed to produce glitzy promotions and sleek advertisements. But today’s teenagers make their purchases very differently.

This generation of teens doesn’t allow huge brands or media conglomerates direct their purchasing decisions. Rather, they turn to friends and family for recommendations and take their own individual wants and needs into consideration. They understand advertising and marketing language. They don’t follow the crowd. Instead they pick and choose what trends to follow and which to ignore based on their personality.

These teenagers are already shaping culture, and will continue to do so as they get older. Armed with communication tools like social media and rapidly advancing technology, they will have everything they need to broadcast their opinions right at their fingertips.

What will these future buyers want to see from brands?

1. They will want brands to be on the same page as them regarding technology.
Today’s teenagers are incredibly tech-savvy. They are considered the first digital generation, having never lived in a world without computers. The Pew Research Internet Project’s ‘teens and technology 2013’ survey showed that 93 per cent of today’s teenagers either have access to a computer or have their own. Tomorrow’s customers will anticipate brand’s being on their level technologically.

2. They will want brands to get personal.
In 2011, over 5000 incoming college freshmen answered Mr. Youth’s ‘class of 2015’ survey. The freshmen expressed that they wanted to develop buying relationships with brands that both connect with them on a customized, individual level and help them express their unique personalities. Advertising and marketing messages will need to be more genuine to reach these younger audiences.

3. They will want brands to share their code of ethics.
Mr. Youth’s study likewise demonstrated that young people weren’t concerned with glitz, glamor, or lavishness. Today’s teens don’t consider having money and wealth as the same thing as success. It is more important to them that brands share their values and work to make the world a better place.

4. They will want brands to be with them on the go.
The January 2014 Mobile Technology Fact Sheet shows that, at present, 78% of teenagers have cell phones that allow them to get on the web and visit social media networks. Additionally, 34% of mobile Internet users go online solely with their smart phone. As technology advances, mobile applications will be the absolute minimum for brands to produce – and they’ll have to be powerful. The days of coupon-only apps will be long gone.

5. They will want brands to deliver context.
Research shows that today’s teenagers use the Internet to express themselves in different ways. Teens are looking to define themselves as well as the boundaries of their peers. They will gravitate towards brands that help them discover the next “cool” or funny thing. As they age, teens’ personalities will evolve, both off- and online. Brands will need to keep up with these changes and deliver new content that speaks to this audience.

To connect with today’s teenagers (and tomorrow’s buyers), brands need to disregard the marketing strategies of the past and embrace a simpler, more individual approach to selling. Brands ought to concentrate on building authentic customer experiences, telling real brand stories, and sincerely engaging with consumers. Brands that fail to do this will risk lose tomorrow’s customers.

Nick Rojas

Nick Rojas is a business consultant and journalist based in Los Angeles, CA.
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