For the past few months Twitter has been all a flutter discussing the lack of teens using the service. The controversy began with an anecdotal report published by Morgan Stanley that was written by a 15-year-old intern. The story behind the report’s origin was enough fodder for media attention. The suggestion that something new and innovative was happening in social media without the participation of Generation Me was more than the twitterati could handle. Our youth-obsessed culture considers “new” synonymous with “those with fewer than 20 years of living.” Mashable got a bit defensive over the report saying, “the real answer is that we don’t know and until firms do hard analysis to provide conclusions one way or another.” Well, according to reports recently released by comScore and Forrester Research, the hard facts confirm the startling truth. According to a recent article New York Times article, “use of social networking by people aged 35 to 54 grew 60 percent in the last year.” So why aren’t teens on Twitter? The short answer is their friends aren’t there. Despite the “my grandma joined Facebook” phenomenon, online media use is dominated by herd mentality. Teens will congregate where other teens are congregating just as they watch the same TV shows other teens are watching. They may even desire to venture where their cool older sibling or cousin hang out, but certainly not where their parents reside. Parents and grandparents are friending their children on Facebook, but teens will not follow their parents on Twitter.
What does this mean for marketers? A campaign must be created with the audience in mind. Don’t include a particular network only because it’s the shiny, new social media toy. Make sure your networks are a viable option for reaching your audience especially when that audience differs greatly from your personal network. Do your own research, both anecdotal and hard facts.
UPDATE 9/2: comScore published a blog post today rebutting the NYTimes article. They explain that Twitter use among younger demographics is growing, though they were not early adopters of the service.