Advertising to Smartphone Addicts: How to Get Attention from Teenage Consumers

Parents don’t hold back when asked if their teenagers spend too much time on their phones. They have good reason. According to a 2018 USC Anneberg study on media, 78 percent of teens check their devices at least once hourly and almost half of have a phone in-hand within five minutes of waking up.

This group of 12- to 17-year-old teens are almost always on their phones. The questions marketers need answered are, “What are teens doing while they’re on their phones?” and “How do I engage teen consumers through the noise?”

We’ll start by looking at where they spend time online and what they’re using their phones for.

Smartphones Everywhere

The latest report from eMarketer estimates eight out of 10 U.S. teens have their own smartphone. You can assume much of the remainder have limited access. That’s comparable to the overall adult population, where 94.1 percent of Millennials, 88.5 percent of Gen X and 65.7 percent of Boomers have smartphones.

The older the kid, the more likely they are to be on their phone. They’re most readily found using social media, apps, games and messaging services like WhatsApp. And, important for marketers, they have buying power. From clothes to electronics to eating out, teens are buying (or influencing parents and other adults to buy). To get them to notice your ads and brand content, then ultimately buy your products and services, your brand needs to step up its social game.

Shifting Social Channels

The eMarketer report claims 70 percent of those aged 12 to 17 use social networks, and almost 46 percent of them are still active on their Facebook accounts although Instagram and Snapchat have surged with this age group. While they use Facebook and Twitter, trending for teens tends to be away from what their parents or other older demographics are using and into newer, image and video-based content. That said, don’t forget YouTube where teens (and younger kids) are heavy consumers. Take a look below at what teens report as their favorite social media platforms.

As for the social site ads, eMarketer states that teens are more likely to click on sponsored posts in apps and on mobile than other demographics, with 46 percent willing to click on an ad. Here’s the challenge: nearly 75 percent said they “find the majority of mobile ads not relevant or useful.” These consumers were born into digital, and they’re quick to sniff out content they find enjoyable or helpful while ignoring mass communication. Customize ad content to teens when product or service is relevant to them. Show them the benefit and relevancy to their world.

Make sure to analyze your campaign from the start and adjust bids, messaging and targeting on your ads to optimize. Testing your ads, and your organic content, will save you money and drive more sales.

Truth About Influencer Marketing

As far as celebrities, their influence on teens may not be as profitable as you may think. Generation Z, which includes our 12- to 17-year-old demographic, is only modestly swayed by their fav celeb’s social ads. According to eMarketer, just 18 percent of teens and young adults say influencers made a difference in their purchases.

What did matter? Quality took the No. 1 spot with 77 percent, price came in next at 71 percent, real customer reviews (which ties back to quality) ranked third at 60 percent of survey respondents identifying factors that matter. Your brand’s values and reputation matter, too, at 51 percent.

So, while influencer marketing has its place and gets attention, teens claim value and quality trump famous product peddlers. In fact, the desire for authenticity and customer reviews has increased engagement in nano- and micro-influencers.

Where To Next?

Research studies and surveys are consistent in reporting that adolescents bounce quickly between social networks with little exclusivity, and their preferred networks shift over time. Teens are adaptive, and loyalty to any given social app is short-lived. That means successful marketers need to keep tabs on teens’ online habits like they’re your own kids. Watch the usage trends like those we’ve shared here.

eMarketer’s 2019 Time Spent with Media report predicts extremely modest to flat social growth over the next 18 months, so keep an eye on emergence of online games, which have become social channels in their own right, and digital video. But don’t ignore newer social apps like TikTok for content opportunities. You don’t need to be the first brand to jump in though. Learn about the ad content that’s performing, and remember that teens engage with customized, relevant messaging that offers value, instead of pushing sales.

If your brand wants to target teenagers, remember they’re a moving target. Their interests, their media platforms and their influencers change as they grow. Their current buying influence and future buying power make them worth the investment.

Need more guidance on reaching teens or other demographics through social media? Contact Mindstream Media Group for help.