Sep 04

WOM Strategy Affected By Teens Using Twitter

WOM Strategy Affected By Teens Using Twitter

In the midst of all the stories that have hit this week including Disney purchasing Marvel Comics and eBay selling VoiP provider Skype to private investors there’s one subject in particular that has peaked my personal interest, especially in terms of using social media channels. A great deal of discussion has recently surfaced around how teens are using social media, which can potentially have an impact on word-of-mouth marketing.

That is the question of whether teenagers (or those between 12 and 17 years of age) use Twitter…and if so, how frequently? If they do, what are the implications for word-of-mouth and social media strategies?

Initially, researchers had announced that Twitter’s growth was not due to youth, and declared that teens do not use Twitter. Mashable initially confirmed this, but new data from comScore reevaluated the dynamics of teens on Twitter, which led to Mashable recently reassessing its position. Tech Crunch provides an excellent breakdown of this trend and makes an interesting observation. According to TechCrunch, teens are regularly updating their statuses on other platforms like Facebook and myYearbook, usually discussing favorite musicians/bands/celebrities, keeping up with current events and staying in touch with their friends.

So what does this mean for driving word of mouth marketing campaigns? Since teens use social media as a way to communicate with their peers, this creates very fertile ground for driving word-of-mouth for youth-oriented brands. What lessons can we learn from this demographic? How can brands (as well as other word-of-mouth marketers) integrate this information into their social media strategies?

Twitter cloud, social media isn't free.jpgFirst, the shifting conversation and continual updating of data show the ever-changing nature of social media and social media use, and how brands need to adapt and change with these shifts. It’s a potent reminder that Twitter is a channel, not a strategy. Different demographics tend to use different channels – locating those social media channels and creatively engaging users is key in driving conversations and building customer word of mouth. (Plus, don’t forget that online activities can be used to engage people offline, whether through meetups, Tweetups, or special events which allow for greater social interaction.)

Another lesson is that for successfully driving word-of-mouth campaigns, brands must consider how key demographics and influencers are accessing social media channels. Looking at how teens access the online realm, the Pew Internet and American Life Project (a great resource for locating data and research on a variety of channels) has found that teens are increasingly using mobile phones, with mobile phone use increasing from 45% of teens to 71% in little under four years. In addition, another Pew Internet study found that girls tend to blog more frequently, and boys tend to post videos, with a small number of teens who create a large amount of content.

Finally, conversations around teen use of Twitter (and other social media) provide a key reminder about engaging teens in word of mouth campaigns. One of WOMMA‘s fundamental ethical guidelines is that “We manage relationships with minors responsibly.” To quote WOMMA’s Ethical Guidelines:

    * We believe that working with minors in word of mouth marketing programs carries
      important ethical obligations, responsibility, and sensitivity.
    * We stand against the inclusion of children under the age of 13 in any word of mouth
      marketing program.
    * We comply with all applicable laws dealing with minors and marketing, including 
      and regulations regarding age restrictions for particular products.
    * We ensure that all of our campaigns comply with existing media-specific rules regarding
      children, such as day-part restrictions.

When looking at the question of how teens use a particular channel, it’s easy to focus on the back-and-forth conversation. However, questions like this are often fueled by deeper insights, and have further implications for word-of-mouth marketing. Successful programming is more than just driving data – it’s using that data to formulate a strong, smart social media strategy.