Forrester Report: How Teens Really Use Digital Media

Researching the greater picture of how young consumers are using digital media will help uncover opportunities that unlock the true strength of this medium — exponential word of mouth. With 78% of teens having a social networking account, its power is undeniable. But it’s not enough just to look at these channels based on what teens are consuming; it ‘s how and why they’re consuming it. Without tapping into these deeper motivations, so much of this opportunity will remain unearthed. Forrester believes that to truly understand the usage and behaviors of this target group, companies and researchers must:

Understand the role of traditional media.

Yes, they spend more time online than offline, but young consumers’ trust varies for these channels. Understand how traditional and nontraditional media can be married together. Use traditional media that they already trust more, and extend trust to outlets that they’re frequently using (i.e., social networks or video-sharing sites). For example, the History channel recently partnered with foursquare as part of a multichannel campaign to promote its new series America The Story Of Us. The promotion was equally beneficial, resulting in record-breaking ratings for the show’s premier and increased traffic to the emerging mobile application — making History the third-largest profile on foursquare.

Align with what they’re already talking about instead of starting a new conversation.

Young consumers are already talking to each other about a lot of different things, and although your product category might not be one of those hot topics, there are ways to become part of these conversations. For example, teens are more likely than any other age group to express their opinions about music (64%). The rapid transformation of the music industry — and a need for new revenue sources — presents a mutually beneficial opportunity for artists and brands to collaborate. For not-so-hot brands, creatively working with artists allows for brand association and a more authentic way to infiltrate existing social conversations. Market researchers should be monitoring the hottest topics and developing a strategy around how their brands can partner with some of the trending topics and how all parties can benefit.

Consider new ways to “play.”

Emerging media outlets have already begun to capitalize on the insight that consumers instinctively love to play games, and this is especially true with teens. More than one-third of 12- to 17-year-olds who own a mobile phone play games on their phone at least weekly, 70% play video games online at least weekly, and more than one in five play games on social networking sites. On top of their sheer love of games, they also love to talk about them: video games are the third most popular category that they talk about. Market research professionals should test some emerging technologies in order to spark conversations and also look for ways to find out how this group likes to integrate these new technologies with social networks.

Explore social research options.

Social listening is one piece of the puzzle, but market researchers also should begin to understand how brands can mine reviews. While younger consumers have a while before they achieve the spending power of Boomers, it is important to recognize the high level of expectations they have already formulated for their online experiences. Research, evaluate, and analyze their reviews and current brand interactions online so that the organization can gradually prepare to deploy new strategies and meet these expectations in the future.

Source: Forrester, March 2011

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