This 14-Year-Old Founder Explains How to Market to Teenagers…

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Everyone knows that the root of marketing is understanding your audience. Knowing who they are, and where they are. Are they reading magazines? Tweeting on Twitter? Engaging in LinkedIn groups? Reading trade publications? Watching online videos? Knowing your audience is the single most important thing for a business owner to understand.

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With some niches, the answers are are obvious: stay-at-home moms, tech entrepreneurs, engineers or even real estate agents. But, some niches are not as obvious. For example, teenagers. What do teenagers read? Or better yet, what don’t they read? What is the best way to reach them?

My guess is that most CMOs and CEOs never thought they would be looking to teenagers for advice on their brand or how to create a relevant, dynamic and lasting relationship with their brand, but if that is your audience, then it certainly makes sense to understand how teenagers’ brains work. Once you are able to understand how their brains work, your general marketing practices such as determining influencer value and selecting specific execution channels, can come into play.

As a teenpreneur who uses social media to promote both of my businesses (Audiots and Friendits), here are my thoughts on how to market to my demographic and how we use our preferred platforms, Snapchat and Instagram.

How teens use Snapchat

On Snapchat, we enjoy the many filters and features — the dog ears, the flower crowns and the geotags. However, our behavior on the platform changes over time. After several months, we experience the point of social fatigue (POSF). The POSF is an extended period where we snap one or two pictures and check mark certain friends, only to maintain Snap streaks. Snap streaks are consecutive days Snapchatting with a friend.

After we save our snap streaks (which takes us less than a minute), we then snap our closest friends for a more extended period. We actually do communicate using Snapchat, in the form of pictures of what we are doing in that very second — some with filters and others without.

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There are usually several brand filters to choose from; however, my friends and I find them less interesting and don’t care to use most of them. The reason is that brands are designing filters like a brand campaign and not as a fun experience for the users. They look more like small print ads, postage stamps or photos frames and less like the most popular puppy filter.

My advice would be to design filters that interact with our personalities, focusing more on experience and less on your logos.

How teens use Instagram

Instagram is a different story. Instagram has built-in relevancy because what we share, post and like is more lasting and visible then Snapchat. We have invested time curating our feeds including making our personal brands relevant to our followers.

However, the mistake I feel brands can make is in understanding influencer value. Most brands jump to the conclusion that if someone has a lot of followers then they must be of highest value (and is some cases that is true). In addition, Instagram selects which feeds are verified (mostly celebrities, brands or large follower feeds). Brands often view these accounts as a channel for brands for paid postings. While sponsoring posts in verified feeds is one approach, it often means the sponsored brand is competing with the “personality” of the feed. In this case, the brand can get lost.

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Finding relevance with teens

In my opinion, the only way to deliver relevancy on both of these platforms is to break through competing experiences — and quickly. Teenagers will only give your brand a second or less. You have the time it takes for me to scroll through my entire Instagram feed to make an impression, or you can extend the experience by collaborating with the right social platforms and personalities.

I really like the approach Target took when it launched a new teen clothing line. The company identified up-and-coming teen personalities (including yours truly!) as well as some well-known teens instead of partnering exclusively with one famous teen. This created a social framework built on a personality portfolio, not a single celebrity. The campaign included several teen personalities with follower bases that ranged from very few to many millions. This approach created a brand association with the diverse interests, cultures and experiences the selected teens represent. The result was a wider net of relevancy. Target curated based on the “collective image” of creative, smart and fashion-forward.

In addition, my friends and I respond to the approach of using an up-and-coming personality, because we like to be part of the “discovery” of new people we can share with friends. So, if a brand helps me find someone I may not currently follow via the product, it has created more of a relationship with me.

Another approach is partnering with a multi-medium emerging personality. While it is more focused on a partnership with a single person, these personalities do a lot of cool, different and interesting things that make them fun to follow. JoJo Siwa is a teen who started small but now has a hit singing YouTube video, wears an accessory as her signature look, spent a few seasons on a reality show and has a fast growing following. Siwa built an early brand relationship Claire’s, taking her trademark accessory to a television show that has helped her form a multimedia enterprise. Claire’s is now part of everything she does, creating a win-win. Another example is teen influencer Mackenzie Ziegler’s partnership with clothing brand Justice.

If brands want to build a relationship with teens, they should really consider helping teens discover someone new and exciting, rather than only partnering with influencers with a million followers. 

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