As a teenager, I still have vivid memories of rushing home from wherever I was to see if my latest crush had called and left a message.
Times have changed. Teenagers today don’t have to wait by the phone or check an answering machine — they might get a text or call ”on the cell” immediately after the school day ends.
The point is, just as the frame of reference of a teen today is significantly different than that of a teen a decade ago, so are the outlets that teens use to communicate.
The past few weeks have seen a number of articles and studies discussing this. A few weeks ago Matthew Robson, a 15 year old intern at Morgan Stanley, wrote a highly touted paper on how teenagers consume media. Highlights included:
- Most teenagers are not regular listeners of radio
- Teenagers do not read the newspaper
- Teenagers do not utilize yellow pages
- Teenagers are annoyed by advertising on websites
- Teenagers do not use Twitter, instead focusing on Myspace and Facebook
- Teenagers all have cell phones and finally…
- Teens text
To anyone who has a teenage child or regularly interacts with teenagers, no huge surprises here. What was surprising is that a Nielson study released a month earlier found that “teens read newspapers, listen to the radio and even like advertising more than most.” One area where both were in agreement was that teens tend not to “tweet.”
Since then, the internet has been buzzing, debating how teens consume media. One of the pieces I enjoyed the most was written by a teenager (yes, real life teens did enter the debate).
What does this have to do with how to communicate with teenagers? Quite a bit.
What I gained from all of this discussion is that, from a communications perspective, teenagers overwhelmingly prefer interactive and personal mediums of communication – texting and Facebook – rather than broadcast based mediums such as radio and Twitter (generally).
What are the lessons from all of this new information in our changing society?
In essence, the lessons are the same as when I was a teenager, and the same as it was decades ago:
- Teenagers prefer to be talked to as opposed to talked at
- Teenagers are individuals first, members of a demographic group second — very important distinction
- To successfully communicate with a teenager, you must first learn how to listen to a teenager
Stay tuned for Part III…