Where in Social Media are Young Teens?

Last week, first lady Michelle Obama explained that Facebook is not something her daughters need. More specifically, when asked if Sasha and Malia are on Facebook, Mrs. Obama joked that she’s lucky to be under a lot of constraints, noting the United States Secret Service as one of the obstacles preventing her girls from obtaining a personal Facebook account. I couldn’t help but wonder, how many people share Mrs. Obama’s sentiments? In particular, does parental disapproval affect the way young teenagers use social media?

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Pew Internet Research released last Wednesday displayed teenagers ages 12-17 ranking in second of all age groups in social networking website usage at 73%, following their 18-29 adult counterparts at 82% .  Over the course of the past three years, Pew Internet Research suggests that the number of teens using these networks has increased overall, while youth activity on Twitter and blogs has significantly decreased.

Within the past year, a total of 8% of teenagers ages 13-17 used Twitter, compared to an overall 7% of adults ages 50-64. This is a significant drop for young teenagers, considering only 47% of these adults use social networking websites. Not to mention, Pew has also conveyed that youth activity on blogs has dramatically decreased in the past two years. Compared to 2006, the amount of teen blogger activity halved in 2010.  This statistic is strengthened by Pew research regarding how frequent of teens comment on blogs. In 2006, 76% of teen social network users accounted for commenting on friends blogs, whereas only 52% of teens declared doing so in 2010. If young teenagers are not as active on Twitter and blogs, where are they active?

Last July, Candytech’s SocialBakers.com, an analytics outlet specializing in Facebook statistics, released this 2010 infographic revealing the general breakdown of Facebook’s then 500 million Facebook users by region and age.

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15% of Facebook users were teenagers ages 13-17, totaling to almost 73 million teenagers  using Facebook. What I found most interesting is that when these two studies are compared side by side, the number of teens using Facebook climbed, despite the decrease in Twitter and blog use.  Similarly, the number of young teens who use Facebook has soared.

As a Digital Strategist and as a word-of-mouth marketer, one must ask, how are these teenagers using Facebook? In the same Pew study, the amount of teenagers using social networking websites for messaging purposes have steadily risen from 21% in 2006 to 25% in 2010. Teenagers are progressively relying on Facebook as a means of communication and they are increasing as a demographic on Facebook.  Off the top of my head, I can list robust Facebook campaigns geared towards moms, sports fanatics, families, and frat boys. However, a compelling Facebook campaign targeting younger teens does not come to mind.

Is it just me? When I was drafting this post, I had wondered what statistics I could find regarding youth teenagers and their use of social media. While these statistics exist, I had found far more data for age groups between 18 and 64. As young teens are becoming increasingly visible on Facebook, we should allocate the time to learn how to reach them as an audience.

In your opinion, should Facebook be integrated into teenage marketing campaigns? If so, how?

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