I recently read this teenager’s post about social media sites, which reflected on how he believed his generation feels about the various social media platforms currently on the market. After a class discussion today, I realized my biggest issue with the article (besides some presumably unintentional privilege issues) is this “millennials” generalization that all young people react to social media the same way.
In reality, there is a HUGE difference between social media users in every age group. The difference of just a few years can drastically change one’s social media habits; I offer up myself and my younger sister as examples of this fact.
My sister is in her late teens, just four years younger than myself. I recently asked her if she was going to get a Facebook account. She scrunched up her nose in a classic “ew” face and said,
“I’m not getting a Facebook. Facebook’s for old people.”
Of course, I have a Facebook account – and don’t consider myself “old” – so I was like:
She went on to say that hardly any of her friends were on Facebook, and that her most used social media apps by far were Snapchat and Kik. (I might as well go ahead and admit that I had to ask what Kik was, so maybe I really am old.)
This chat with my sister demonstrated to me the complicated relationship between social media and two of its influencing factors: brand perception and demand for services.
Let’s go back to Facebook to examine this further. Most people my age that I come in contact with have Facebook accounts. Furthermore, most people I know continue to use the messaging feature on Facebook, even if they rarely post content to their profiles. We have a need for an instant messaging service, and Facebook provides it. Many choose to use Facebook’s messaging system over another option like Kik because we already have an established network of people we want to contact on the site. We’re accustomed to Facebook and it is meeting our demand for messaging services, so we keep using it, even if we see newer social media platforms as “cooler” or more useful for other things.
On the other hand, it makes sense that my sister and her friends would be partial to the messaging app Kik if they shun Facebook so vehemently. They still demand an IM service, but without a pre-established network and sense of brand loyalty (or laziness, depending on your viewpoint) to another site, they found their own app somewhere else. Facebook was deemed “uncool,” which allowed Kik to enter the scene and take over that particular target market.
This is why my advice to anyone trying to start up a new social media site or app would be to consciously evaluate a precise target age range based on that group’s current brand perceptions and needs. All young people are not looking for the same things, nor do we feel the same way about all types of social media. I believe a better age-tailored campaign for new social media options could truly change how receptive we are to new social media platforms.
“Millennials” just isn’t a narrow enough audience anymore.