Examining Teenagers’ Social Media Habits 27


We’ve all heard it before: teenagers don’t use Twitter. Is it because they don’t find it useful? Or do they just not have time for it? To help us understand how teens feel about Twitter and other social networks, Michael Moore-Jones, a sixteen-year-old technology and business enthusiast that’s involved in involved in numerous startups was kind enough to answer a few questions for us. Michael lives in New Zealand and blogs regularly at mmoorejones.com. You can also follow him on Twitter at @mmoorejones.
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RaceTalk: As you noted in your article on ReadWriteWeb, teenagers aren’t big Twitter adopters. You wrote about some of the major reasons for this (i.e.: they use social media to extend real-life relationships online), but how much of a factor do you think time is? Do teens have the time for another social networks, especially since all of their friends are already on Facebook?
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Michael Moore-Jones: I think if teens had a use for Twitter, they would use it regardless of time. With the amount of time that we spend on Facebook, it wouldn’t be hard to siphon off a bit of that time into using Twitter (I do it myself). So no, time isn’t one of the main factors that means teens don’t tweet. If Twitter offered teens something, they’d find the time.
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RaceTalk: Teens are a very unique group in that they’ve grown up with social media, rather than being introduced to it (like today’s working generations). As teens get older and begin to enter the real-world do you think their attitude towards Twitter will change?
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MMJ: Good question – I think that’s exactly the point my post on RWW was leading to. While it may seem as though once teens enter the working world and realize the value that Twitter offers they may start using it, I believe there is a weird mentality amongst teens about Twitter that means they will never adopt it. In researching the reasons why teens don’t tweet, I asked numerous teens at my school “Do you use Twitter? What do you think of it?”. The response I got was usually a laugh, followed by something along the lines of “Are you kidding me? Twitter is so lame”. A couple of people even said “Isn’t Twitter for little kids?” I think that when the vast majority of a generation shares that view of a web product or service, they won’t adopt it even if they move into a position where it does solve a problem for them. It could even be to do with the branding of Twitter – fluffy blue logo and little birds. Teens don’t like using something that seems immature and young, even if it is useful (part of wanting to be older and grow up). So no, I believe that my generation will never adopt Twitter en-masse, even when we move into the real-world.
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RaceTalk: Location-based check in applications like Foursquare and Gowalla have caught a lot momentum during the past year. Are teens interested in these types of networks or are they more likely to use Facebook Places?
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MMJ: With location-based services, teenagers are currently using them less than older generations for the reason that they are still mainly for early adopters (Facebook Places is changing this, but not yet). Here in New Zealand Facebook Places hasn’t been rolled out yet so I can’t comment on its usage amongst teenagers, but I do know that Foursquare and Gowalla have not been adopted in a hurry (and the vast majority of teenagers not involved in the tech industry in some way would not have heard of them yet). At the same time (at least in New Zealand and Spain, where I’ve lived in the past couple of years) smartphones are still not ubiquitous amongst teenagers, so many teenagers wouldn’t have the ability to use these services even if they wanted to. Once all teens have smartphones, I believe they will start using a location based service other than Facebook Places (because they want to share their location, but not have it pop up in everyone’s news feed everywhere they go). Heck, the full reasons for that is another entire post so I’ll leave it at that and explain in the comments if people want to know a bit more.
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RaceTalk: Of all methods of communication (Facebook messages, IM, email, text, etc.) what do teens generally prefer, and how will this affect communication 10 years from now?
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MMJ: Teens will use a medium of communication that suits the content of the conversation (I touched on this in the RWW post, too). So, if teens aren’t at home but want to check up on a plan for later, they’ll send a text. If they are organizing going to the movies with a big group of people, they’ll send out a Facebook message to everyone invited. If they’re at home on a computer and want to be talking to a few people, they’ll use Facebook chat because it’s easier to type than it is to text. There are reasons for using each medium of communication, and which one teens choose to use actually says a lot about what the content of the conversation will be. I believe that the new Facebook Messages is the future, but it could go one of two ways – either all teens will adopt it and it will become the norm, or they won’t like it because it doesn’t allow to the same extent the understanding of the medium of communication being used. It’ll be interesting to watch, but I think at the least Facebook Messages is a great step in the right direction. On another note, once smartphones become the norm amongst teenagers, I believe texting will die and teens will start using instant messaging applications more (such as Blackberry Messenger, or Whatsapp Messenger). It’s instantaneous, and allows a conversation to happen more than with text messaging. Anyway, we’ll see how these predictions play out!
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RaceTalk: Moving forward do you think teens would prefer to communicate visually rather than through text (i.e.: receiving picture notifications from a business running a sale rather than text notifications)?  How will this affect the way businesses (especially consumer-facing companies) operate?
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MMJ: Another fantastic question. I believe communication through text will always have a place because it serves so many different purposes, but I definitely do think that a lot of communication will move to be done visually. Something that is already occurring is that we’ll see people video calling rather than just calling, and this could work as an analogy for what is to happen with other mediums of communication. I definitely think that with the rise of the smartphone for the masses people will begin to use images a lot more regularly and freely – so we will see people just sending a photo of where they are rather than describing it in text. But again, it all depends on what teenagers are trying to communicate. Relating to your question about how businesses will need to change the way they operate, I don’t think they’ll need to change a great deal in the next few years. Most advertising done online (plus traditional media advertising) includes a visual aspect. Text message advertising in its current state doesn’t work because its been shown that teenagers don’t respond to marketing messages sent via text message, so we could see a rise of mobile advertising of images being sent rather than just text. This will also be very interesting to watch, and we’ll just see what happens.

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