Where will brands go after Facebook, Twitter?

April 12, 2011

Just one teen in 16 would ‘friend’ a brand on Facebook. Could brands bridge the ‘trust’ gap? Would efforts pay off?

Remember the market’s enthusiasm for Second Life, before it lost its mojo?

Brands spent millions of dollars to establish a presence there, and it’s unclear what they have to show for those efforts today.

Could today’s feverish brand rush to be big on Facebook and Twitter lose its pace – on a larger scale – once brands can analyze better performance metrics against their investments? Is it possible brands will discover one day they’re chest-deep in a social-media sinkhole, and that their marketing dollars might have been spent in better ways?

Are teenagers the harbinger of yet another shift in marketing to come, away from the social-media-as-we-know-it craze? The Lempert Report thinks findings of a new Forrester Research study are significant because teens are more connected than pretty much anyone. 

Despite their voluminous time online, just 6% of 12- to 17-year-olds want to ‘friend’ a brand on Facebook. That’s half the percentage of 18- to 24-year-olds who do, notes Jacqueline Anderson, a consumer insights analyst at Forrester in her study, Understanding The Intricate Digital Behaviors of Young Consumers.

As expected, the report delves into many of their online activities. What’s most relevant to brands? According to Anderson:

  • Nearly three-quarters of this age group have an account on Facebook, almost 40% are also on MySpace, and 17% read posts on Twitter.
  • Almost half (46%) don’t think brands should have a presence using social tools at all.
  • Putting up a Facebook page for your brand is like trying to force yourself into their social circles. Only one-quarter trust social networking sites.
  • Twenty-eight percent expect companies to listen to what they’re saying on social networks and respond if they have questions.
  • It’s not about getting ‘likes.’ More thoughtful consumer reviews matter to them. Seventy-four percent tell friends about products that interest them.

Few strategies are air tight when it comes to social media and teens, both of which can be hard to assess and change so fast. The report suggests ways to credibly ease brands into the teen dialogue. To us, however, the bigger questions relate to ROI, new directions in media and marketing mix, and evolving demands of teen consumers as they grow up.