Twitter: Not Just for Grown-Ups Any More [Research]

  |  February 6, 2012   |  Comments

Three reasons why teens are moving to Twitter.

Twitter usage among teens has doubled in the last two years according to Pew Internet Research. While still a small proportion of social media use by teens, this Twitter increase is worth marketers' attention because it's starting to reach a critical mass and provides insights into how they think and use communications. Further, as with the rest of your Twitter engagement, you want to make every tweet count!


Specifically, one out of six teens uses Twitter. Participants tend to be female and are more likely to be African-American based on Pew Internet Research's findings. To put this in perspective, Facebook, which started as a platform for connecting college students, is still the dominant teen social media destination. Nine out of 10 teens are on Facebook. Of the 40 percent of teens who are active on more than one social media platform, most have a Facebook account. Interestingly, most teens use social media platforms to communicate with their friends and peers across a number of related activities.


3 Reasons Why Teens Are Moving to Twitter

Scratch below the surface of teen Twitter usage and you'll find three factors motivate them to utilize Twitter that Facebook in particular doesn't allow them.

  1. Offers sense of control. Unlike Facebook, teens perceive they're in charge of their communications without adults or peers watching.
  2. Permits use of an alternative identity. Facebook is tied to an individual's real-life identity. For teens (and others), this is a double-edged sword since family, friends, and classmates observe what you're doing on a very public stage. On Twitter, they can select a unique name and/or avatar preventing others from following their every move.
  3. Provides private channel for communication. Teens use direct messaging (DM) like online chat. They view it as a more personal channel for communicating like texting but via a social media platform. Of course, this exchange can be taken out of context and made public via Twitter or another communication channel including Facebook.

Since many teens assume Twitter provides a level of privacy, marketers need to exercise care when dealing with this demographic on this social media channel because they don't realize their exchanges are public or may become public without their knowledge.

5 Teen-Focused Twitter Marketing Tips

If you're a marketer targeting this demographic, here are five tips to test Twitter engagement and help you boost your return on this social media platform. Of course, this assumes you've got good Twitter etiquette.

  1. Create content teens want on Twitter. Develop content teens find worth consuming on Twitter. Test different content types and formats to see what resonates best with your target market.
  2. Offer Twitter-based promotions. Create targeted deals and specials teens can only receive via Twitter. Think Deal of the Day for a special item offered daily or Tip of the Day for a small piece of advice or information delivered via Twitter.
  3. Encourage sharing on Twitter. Include sharing buttons and contextually relevant calls-to-action to expand your reach to your audience's closest friends. While this seems obvious, as a platform teenagers use to exchange communications with close confidents, a shared message will have greater impact on the recipient than if you delivered it to them.
  4. Provide customer service via Twitter. Allow teens to reach out to your organization via Twitter. For many businesses, this is an extension of customer engagement you're already providing. Your staff must use care with teen prospects and customers since they may not be as aware of the public nature of their Twitter communications. Therefore, take additional precautions to protect their identity, personal information, and transactions.
  5. Let teens control engagement on their terms. Since teens use Twitter to be in charge of their communication, allow them to guide your interactions with them. Avoid sending auto-DMs and other push communications via Twitter.

Extending your Twitter strategy to teens requires understanding your business goals as well as your target audience's unique needs. To this end, while following your organization's Twitter guidelines, allow teens to steer the relationship but be sensitive to the fact that they may not understand that Twitter's a public forum.

Have you implemented any Twitter strategies targeted at teens? If so, what has worked and what hasn't? Please share your thoughts in the comment section below.

Happy marketing,
Heidi Cohen


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Heidi Cohen

Heidi Cohen is the President of Riverside Marketing Strategies, an interactive marketing consultancy. She has over 20 years' experience helping clients increase profitability by developing innovative marketing programs to acquire and retain customers based on solid analytics. Clients include New York Times Digital,, CheapTickets, and the UJA. Additionally, Riverside Marketing Strategies has worked with numerous other online content/media companies and e-tailers.

Prior to starting Riverside Marketing Strategies, Heidi held a number of senior-level marketing positions at The Economist, the Bookspan/Doubleday Direct division of Bertelsmann, and Citibank.

Her blog,, was nominated as a finalist for Top Social Media Blog of 2012 by Social Media Examiner.

Heidi is also a popular speaker on current industry topics.

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