A Teenager’s View on Social Media
Posted at 21:34h, 20 Jan 2015 in List Archive by Bonnie Halper No Comments 135 Likes Share

Good morning, All,

First, our January Breakfast with an Investor is this Thursday, January 22, and it’s a bit different this time, as Sumeet Shah is the Senior Associate at this very active investment firm, and it’s the first time we’re hosting a gatekeeper. Yup, it’s the Senior Associates who vet the deals first, so it will be interesting to hear that perspective on what investors look for, and yes, Brand Foundry Ventures are early stage investors.

Sumeet is responsible for sourcing, executing, and monitoring new opportunities at Brand Foundry Ventures. In other words, he’s the boots on the ground, out there looking for the next investment. So make sure you’re there to hear what he has to say. You will have one-on-one time with him, and we always leave time for networking. RSVP here.

Recently, 19-year-old University of Texas at Austin student Andrew Watts wrote a post to give us A Teenager’s View on Social Media, having decided that it was high time someone from his age group was heard from. “The case of teenagers and their thoughts on the world around them has long been a code just waiting to be cracked,” wrote one publication, and here it was, written by a teen himself.

“This article will not use any studies, data, sources, etc. This is because you can easily get that from any other technology news website and analyze from there. I’m here to provide a different view based off of my life in this “highly coveted” age bracket,” Watts explained.

Here’s the brief, and the translation, for those of us playing the home version:

Facebook: “It’s dead to us. Facebook is something we all got in middle school because it was cool but now is seen as an awkward family dinner party we can’t really leave. It’s weird and can even be annoying to have Facebook at times. That being said, if you don’t have Facebook, that’s even more weird and annoying. Weird because of the social pressure behind the question, “Everyone has Facebook, why don’t you?” Facebook is often used by us mainly for its group functionality.”
Translation/Takeaway: To provide some context, Facebook is the AOL of the Social Era. Back in the day, AOL was many a newbie’s first brush with online (email, AIM) and the web. Facebook is Social’s jumping off point – and good for events. For everyone, on balance, not just Watts’ age group, and for the record. I hear this from friends in all age groups. Remember Webcrawler? AOL attempted to be a walled garden, too. Are you listening, Facebook? Didn’t quite work out for them, either, now, did it?

Twitter: “To be honest, a lot of us simply do not understand the point of Twitter.” Translation/Takeaway: Let me try to explain it, Andrew: Twitter tends to break news long before the news media picks it up. If you’re interested in anything that’s going on in the world that doesn’t involve what your friends are doing or are having for lunch, check it out. It might not be everyone’s cuppa, but it does have a purpose in the world. Maybe you’ll grow into it.

Snapchat: “On no other social network (besides Twitter possibly) is it acceptable post an “I’m soooo bored” photo besides Snapchat. There aren’t likes you have to worry about or comments—it’s all taken away. Snapchat has a lot less social pressure attached to it compared to every other popular social media network out there. This is what makes it so addicting and liberating. If I don’t get any likes on my Instagram photo or Facebook post within 15 minutes you can sure bet I’ll delete it. Snapchat isn’t like that at all and really focuses on creating the Story of a day in your life, not some filtered/altered/handpicked highlight. It’s the real you.”
Translation/Takeaway: The picture is emerging. If he’s the apotheosis of this age group, Social Media is about ‘Me’ – and being popular, not just social. 15 minutes? This group spends way too much time on social. Unless he’s a sociology major.

Tumblr: “Tumblr is where you are your true self and surround yourself (through who you follow) with people who have similar interests. It’s often seen as a “judgment-free zone” where, due to the lack of identity on the site, you can really be who you want to be.. Your name isn’t attached to that profile at all so without that URL it is pretty difficult to find you again, especially for the typical parent snooping around.”
Translation/Takeaway: Oh, someone somewhere is tracking you, and given the number of social media outlets you’re using while your parents paying for your education, ever consider that there’s a reason why snooping?

YikYak: “There’s an advertisement I see often on Twitter for Yik Yak that says something along the lines of “Everyone’s on it before class starts.” I can 100% reaffirm that this is true. And everyone’s on it during class, talking about the class they are in. And everyone’s on it after class to find out what else is going on around campus. Often I see people post about the fight for anonymity with other applications such as Secret. I can tell you that I do not know a single person in my network who uses that application.
A negative to Yik Yak, however, is how unused the application is whenever there is a school holiday. Yik Yak is only as good as the 10 mile radius around you, so if you are in an area with a low population of Yik Yak users, you won’t really be using the application much.”
Translation/Takeaway: geolocation is important, as is recognizing the herd mentality. As for anonymity – no, we can’t go there.

WhatsApp—“You download it when you go abroad, you use it there for a bit before going back to iMessage and Facebook Messenger, then you delete it. I know tons of people who use it to communicate with friends they made abroad, but I feel like Messenger is beginning to overshadow it.”
Translation/Takeaway: Facebook, Facebook Messenger, tomato, tomahto. AOL/AIM. Yup, sorry, kids, this is history repeating itself. Next generation iteration of what we did back in the day, with the names changed and the technology updated.

He covered others, GroupMe (“By far the most used group messaging application in college. Everyone has one, uses it and loves it. GroupMe also works for literally any phone or device”). Overall takeaway: This is a great guide for marketers and brands looking to reach this “highly coveted” age bracket that doesn’t particularly want to be marketed to. They gravitate to their own age group and to people with similar interests/viewpoints. The phrase ‘echo chamber’ comes to mind, if you’re targeting this group. Find the leader: the rest will no doubt follow. It’s interesting to see what they look for in an app (heads up: GroupMe works across all devices and formats: no child left behind), when they use which platform and why.

Overall takeaway: The mediums might have changed, but the way teens seem to be using social media, if Watts is any indication, all platforms are basically extensions of the telephone, which has traditionally been the communications method of choice of teens. No big mysteries and bottom line: basic teen behavior hasn’t been disrupted at all. The big difference is, while you can take away a kid’s phone privileges, you can’t erase anything they say or do online. For better or for worse, it’s not only age agnostic: the internet is forever. Always proceed with caution. Onward and forward.