The digital behaviours of global teens


As one of the most debated and sometimes maligned generations, today’s teenagers have even greater reason than their predecessors to feel that ‘no one understands’ them. Thankfully, via an exclusive preview of GlobalWebIndex’s Q1 2014 Teens Audience Report (which you can download here), we can now report on the facts, as told by teenagers themselves, and reveal the ramifications for brands.

The report shows a generational realignment of social, with 25-34 year olds now representing the largest share of users across most of the major social networks, coupled with the rise and rise of mobile apps for the teen audience. Snapchat (+60%), Kik (59%) and WeChat (54%) all enjoyed a rapid increase in global user numbers between 2012 and 2013.

Yes, Facebook might not be ‘dead and buried’ quite yet, (it continues to be the most popular platform globally among young people, with 87% of teens having an account, excluding those in China), but active usage amongst this age group is declining, down from 48% to 39%. This is a problem all the mainstream platforms are experiencing, including YouTube (-7%); Twitter (-3%) and Google Plus (-4%).

Underlying this, as the report shows, is the increasingly mobile and real-time nature of social media for this audience. Teens are now spending more time online via their mobile phones – with 65% spending more than one hour a day, 18% higher than in 2012.

Facebook has had the foresight to recognise this fracturing of the social media landscape and has moved toward more niche, ‘mobile first’ platforms – initially with its purchase of Instagram and more recently with WhatsApp. However, most brands still haven’t figured out how to use these apps to deliver effective marketing campaigns. This is something that must change if brands want to reach the teen audience.

As the report shows, these platforms have a growing importance in how teens discover brands, with more than 20% now turning to apps and social media when actively seeking information on brands. And clearly, young people are consuming less traditional media compared to the rest of the population.

This is something that We Are Social tried to address when we worked with evian to tease its new campaign film via Snapchat, helping drive excitement and bring its historically very popular content to a new audience. McDonalds has also begun testing out the platform, following in the footsteps of early adopters such as Taco Bell and MTV.

Brands aren’t just experimenting with Snapchat to target younger audiences. For example, Burberry’s recent ‘digital innovation’ partnership with WeChat brought the brand to a sizeable audience in China, offering them behind the scenes access and personalised content.

So, the use of messaging apps in campaigns can help brands target the teen audience, reaching them in a relevant way by providing entertainment and rewards. A handful of brands have begun to experiment with this, while Facebook has invested heavily in meeting the demands of this younger audience. The GlobalWebIndex Teens Audience Report shows this kind of experimentation could pay off for brands when it comes to teens.