Social media has become a vital part of the online experience today; people spend a considerable part of their day either networking or shopping via social media channels such as Facebook or Groupon. For brands, people’s increasing presence on various networking channels and their purchasing power presents tremendous marketing opportunities. However, for online marketers, building relationships via social media is not a one-size-fits-everyone endeavor. Marketers who are aware of this are smartly designing their digital campaigns focusing on unique target groups instead of simply creating one without a specific audience in mind. When social networking was in the stages of infancy, it was mostly teens and young adults who dominated this space. A lot has changed since then; according to eMarketer, in addition to the +35 age bracket, women, especially moms will drive much of the growth in social media. While the youth have established a strong foothold in the networking space for now, we do know that Baby Boomers and women, specifically mothers, are two of the three most important social networking groups. In a three part series, the team at Position² has studied each of the three demographics, tried to understand their online buying behavior and how they are using social media to engage and connect.
Marketing to the Consumers of Tomorrow: The YouTube Generation
The consumers of tomorrow, or the YouTube generation as we describe them, are believed to be unpredictable consumers who are not as easy to please… and for a good reason; the younger demographic has evolved with the internet and is therefore more digitally savvy and socially connected online. A recent study by eMarketer shows that:
- The highest penetration level of all age groups will remain in the 18- 24 age group, where 90% of internet users will use social networks this year.
- The social network user penetration for the 18-24 and the 25-34 age brackets will slightly increase over the next two years.
For online marketers, it is crucial to know how much time they spend on each networking site, what drives them, and keeps them hooked to a particular site:
Less Blogging, more Videos:
With the exception of Twitter (which is a microblogging site), the usage of blogs among younger audiences is less popular when compared to other social networking sites including videos. According to study published by Pew Internet in 2010, teens and young adults aren’t content creators. Content creation takes up too much time, and they’d rather invest that time on Facebook, YouTube and other online activities. We believe that today’s youth are more of content consumers than creators, therefore they are more inclined to:
- Watch online content on sites such as YouTube.
- Take on the Role of Internet Video Consumers: The 2011 Accenture Video-Over-Internet survey shows that 85% of the people between the ages 18-24 are internet video consumers. This, we believe, is a good sign for online marketers.
- Stay Engaged through Creative Online Video Campaigns: When Adidas wanted to capture the younger demographic, particularly men, the company decided to create a unique online experience for its target audience. In addition to enabling fans to download content from their official website, Adidas’ Impossible is Nothing, Ali vs. Ali commercial was aired on Yahoo, MSN and ESPN home pages for a limited period of time. On the day the commercial went viral, there was a 125% increase in the use of search term “Adidas” on the Yahoo home page, with highest number of requests coming from young men aged between 13 and 17.
Facebook or Twitter?
Now that’s a tough one; as marketing channels, both have their benefits as well as restrictions. When it comes to marketing to teens and young adults, we recommend Facebook over Twitter. Here’s why:
- Facebook functions as the perfect platform for the younger audience who like to establish their identity by updating everything about themselves regularly; Twitter’s 140 character restriction allows for limited updates, usually not preferred by this demographic.
- Finding Friends and Engaging with Communities: Facebook’s Friends Finder tool is one of the major reasons why young adults get on to the site. According to a study conducted by psychologists at the University of Virginia, well-adjusted youth use social networking sites such as Facebook to extend friendships, connect to peers and belong to communities. For marketers the equation is simple:
- More Friends=more creation of communities (gives a sense of belonging) resulting in more buzz.
- More Buzz=more sharing of product reviews and opinions, increasing brands’ exposure online.
- Increased exposure=Increased sales and traffic to the brand’s website.
- Post MySpace, Facebook is the Place to be: Following the decline of MySpace, which was earlier the most popular networking destination, teens and young adults gradually shifted to Facebook because of its cleaner layout, user friendly format and the fact that Facebook initially started off as networking site for college students before expanding further. Still, why the preference over Twitter? Lee Aase, manager for social media at Mayo Clinic, believes that Facebook (along with texting) satisfies the chat needs of this demographic, so they do not feel particularly attracted to Twitter.
- Facebook has all the ‘Fun’ Stuff: Unlike Twitter, Facebook has the ‘fun’ factor, which plays a big role in attracting and retaining this demographic. Facebook’s quizzes, games, photo sharing etc explain the young audiences’ preference to this site.
Although we are not suggesting focusing your marketing strategy entirely on Facebook and videos, from the above discussions, it is evident that Facebook and YouTube have a lot to offer in terms of returns. If yours is a company offering products and services that are designed for teens and young adults, then investing in videos (especially YouTube) and Facebook is a wise move, as this is where you are most likely to find your target demographic.
Youth and their Relationship with Mobile Devices
The current digital environment offers overwhelming marketing potential. Marketers who have a good understanding of changing consumer behaviors and interests are directing their investments towards non-traditional devices such as mobiles and smartphones, which are touted to be the next big thing. For an online marketer it is very important to find out ‘what exactly are these people doing on their phones? In this case, ‘these people’ are the young adults and teens who make up for a majority of smartphone users. According to a recent Pew Research Center Report, besides using their mobile devices for texting, talking etc, teens use their smartphones to access social networking sites and join online forums; a trend we expect will only increase in the years ahead. Here’s something interesting: As of June 2011, 76,678,728 iPhone users used Facebook every month, while 35,343,702 people accessed the networking channel through their BlackBerry Devices. The ease-of-use and mobility offered by smartphones and mobile devices means more and more young users are accessing their Twitter and Facebook profiles, viewing videos, shopping and staying connected 24/7 through their mobile phones. How Can Brands Benefit from this?
- If you are a retailer, you no longer have the undivided attention of shoppers while they browse through your stores. In fact, a US study from Oracle shows that the 18-34 demographic is simultaneously browsing on their smartphones and reaching for products while in store. As a retailer, this means the youth shopping at your store a) share products’ details with friends and b) receive feedback about a product or service from their contacts, influencing their shopping decisions.
- Keep it Short: Recent studies show that 93% of students use their Smartphones while riding in a bus, train or car, while 85% use it while waiting in line at a grocery store. This means online marketers need to keep their content short and creative as the younger generation tends to consume different types of media in small amounts. For Smartphone users, a video should typically last less than one minute, while text should be restricted to three paragraphs or less.
- Increase Brand Visibility: While designing online ads, marketers need to keep in mind that a large part of their audience will view the ads on their mobile phones. When Unilever wanted to increase awareness for a teen-friendly version of its Seda shampoo in Brazil, the company launched a multi-faceted mobile campaign, after understanding that teens preferred to be communicated with via their mobile handsets. The outcome; 5% CTR, +360,000 visits to the mobile site and +11,000 games downloaded.
- Building Customer Database: With teens and young adults constantly updating their status on Facebook and Twitter via Smartphones and other mobile devices, mobile marketers now have a huge opportunity to build their customer database. Since mobile marketing via social media drives highly targeted traffic, marketers can analyze the requirements of this demographic and offer well personalized services.
The Purchasing Power of Youth
Today’s teens and the 20-something generation have raised the bar for consumerism. They represent an important demographic for online marketers because of the purchasing power they wield and their increasing inclination to look for deals and offers on the web, particularly on social networking sites. Brands focusing on this segment also need to keep in mind the fact that these online buyers, who spend a major part of their time socializing on the web, also play an important role in influencing their peers offline; this is definitely good news for brands looking to increase traffic and drive sales, both online and offline. We believe that this particular demographic will redefine online shopping because:
- A survey conducted by myYearbook and Ketchum shows that teen social media influencers are more likely than the average teen to participate in social media activities; this group also wields more purchasing power then the average teen.
- 87% of the teen social media influencers share product information with their friends, influencing their buying decisions.
- These influencers also look to recommendations from ‘friends’ as their most trusted source; 52% of these influencers buy something online, because their friends recommend it.
- Retailers targeting teens need to know that peer influence is the key driver in teen girl shopping behavior, says eMarketer.
- Internet is second among the leading sources that influence clothing and footwear purchases of US teens in 2011.
- 11% of teens in 2011 favor online shopping, which although is not a big number right now, is likely to increase in the years ahead.
Although several factors like lack of credit cards hinder teens from buying online, upper-income teens are taking to e-commerce in a large way. One of the major reasons for this is the cash-on-delivery option offered by many online stores enabling them to shop online more often. For time-strapped young adults, who are no longer considered to be a lower-income segment, big discounts (Groupon deals, Facebook coupons), high-speed e-trading, speedy deliveries etc are among the many reasons that make e-commerce a convenient and viable option.
In the first of our three-part series, we aimed to highlight how today’s youth has redefined the consumption of marketing messages via new channels. With more disposable income and less time, young adults are increasingly looking to the digital space for deals and discounts. Unlike yesterday, marketers’ perception of this demographic has changed from ‘casual browsers‘ to ‘actual shoppers‘. The growing use of Facebook, YouTube as well as other social networks is likely to influence brands to create ads, run contests and offer attractive deals, specifically designed for this segment. Going by eMarketer’s estimates, teen internet users will increase by 87% by the end of 2011. Statistics such as these are testimony enough that teens and young adults are consumers with an identifiable mark for online shopping. Meanwhile, young mobile phone users are using their mobile devices and smartphones for more than just texting or playing games. Whether its apparel or entertainment products, the young audience has little time to invest at brick and mortar stores, or in front of their PCs. From watching videos and ads, to checking-out product reviews, the consumers of today are on-the-move and are increasingly depending on smartphones and other mobile devices. Online marketers aiming to cash in on this trend need to design their marketing strategies with special focus on mobile marketing. Now that we have studied the importance of this demographic to internet marketers, in the second part of the series, we will focus on Baby Boomers as a fast emerging demographic and how they are embracing social media and catching up at an incredibly quick pace.