Social Media Lessons from a 13-Year-Old
My 13-year-old niece is a social media guru, as are most of her friends. They excel on platforms where marketers and businesses struggle, flop, and fail (right #Rogers1Number?).
You've no doubt heard (or even said), “We need a blog,” “We should have a Facebook page,” “We have to be on Twitter,” or “Let's use social media to make it viral”?
It's exciting, but then it fizzles. No one blogs. Nothing happens on Facebook. No one knows what to tweet. And there's no return on investment. Or worse (right, #Rogers1Number?).
Social media channels are not strategic: they're tactical. Tweens understand social media strategy. Since they may not be able to verbalize it in a way that's coherent, I've done the translating for you.
A 13-year-old girl has done her homework. She knows exactly which of her friends and acquaintances are online and on which platforms—and whether their parents are watching (demographics). She knows their personalities, interests, and attitudes (pyschographics). She knows when they post, and what they share (behavioural segments). The influencers are obvious to her, and she knows who she wants to influence (notably the cutie from Spanish class with the long eyelashes).
Tweens are also clear on what's in and what's out, which brands are likable and which are not. She's acutely aware of what her “non-friends” are doing and saying online—the other cliques, schools, soccer teams, and the snobs. This intelligence is paired with deep qualitative and quantitative off-line research—say, insights from last weekend's sleepover—to get a complete picture of her social media landscape opportunities and risks.
And, necessarily, these insights inform her choices and her actions.
What does it mean for business? Strategies are built from good information: conduct a SWOT analysis, qualitative and quantitative market research, identify your target market, and include a competitive analysis. Don't succumb bright shiny object syndrome and skip this step.
Me and My Gurls Havin Fun!!!!♥♥ (actual tween quote)
“Liking” the Jonas Brothers page on Facebook was a signal, carefully chosen to align with her friends' values. Her and her friends upload heaps of photos and take the time to tag and comment on each one, although you'd need a dictionary to decrypt their comments (Ikr?!). They gripe about school, homework, and lost soccer games. They pump up one another's self esteem with likes and “lols.” It's a Petri dish for sociologists, but the gist of it is that tweens are using shared values and social cohesion to create community on social networks. Like, duh.
And although occasionally I get fundraising requests for her soccer team, she doesn't use social media to sell anything.
What does it mean for business? Recognize that social networks are not just groups, but communities, and you can't just infiltrate them. There's a social order and rules of engagement. Your social media strategy has got to detail how you're going to offer and deliver value to the community.
Offline, it's skinny jeans, hoodies, Twilight movies, boys and braces. Online, well, it's skinny jeans, hoodies, Twilight movies, boys and braces. My niece's Facebook profile is a fairly accurate reflection of her offline personality. She goes by her real name, but identifies herself with goofy photos, funny link shares, misinformation (she “works” at Bob's Secret: Underwear for Men), and upbeat posts. She has liked dozens of sports teams and athletes (she's a killer soccer player herself), loads of bands and musicians that I've heard of but thankfully never heard, and a fleet of animé-related figures. She knows that if she posts something out of line—whether not characteristic or inappropriate—her friends will call her out, perhaps even suspect someone of hacking her profile. While her posts are frequently written in indecipherable tween-speak and punctuated with innumerable exclamation marks and emoticons, they even sound like her. It's all completely her.
What does it mean for business? Brand matters. Ensure you have a strong brand, clearly defined brand personality, and a distinctive brand voice. Your brand strategy will ensure that your communications stay “on brand.”
The downside to my niece's social media strategy prowess is that she can only apply it to her friends, her, and her “brand,” and thus is not yet employable as a social media superstar. But when she and the rest of Generation Z do enter the workforce, they'll undoubtedly wonder why we had so much trouble getting social media right.