Social media has largely been an adult playground for businesses as many of the most popular social networks have age limitations that prevent young children from creating profiles. The reality is that there are definitely pre-teens on Facebook and Twitter, but it is inappropriate for businesses to try and create marketing strategies to attract them there because they are violating the terms and conditions of the site.

So rather than look at how we can break the rules to tap into this audience we will focus on other channels where they spend their time. I’ve been brainstorming about how marketers could use social media to effectively attract the pre-teen market in a positive and supportive way that parents would support.

As a result, I started watching how my own children were using social media. I have 2 boys who are 10 and 12, so my evaluation is certainly limited to an older male pre-teen demographic, or “tweenagers “ as we call them in my house. It’s important to note that my children are very tech savvy and both have their own computers. They utilize the web to find things that interest them every time they sit down, but I was specifically curious as to what type of content they look for and where they go to find it.

 I found an interesting trend. While we tend to start our searches on Google, my boys start their search on YouTube and then if they can’t find a video about what they want they will go to Google.  After watching them for a couple of weeks I started to recognize that there are some tremendous opportunities companies can capitalize on once they understand what playground tweenagers are frequenting.

Online Games

For a couple of years, my kids were really into the community created by Webkinz which created an online version of their real stuffed animals with every purchase. They would find their friends on the community and play games together while working to amass enough “money” to pimp out their animal’s houses. The community had a pseudo-Farmville lure that kept the kids anxiously awaiting their computer time.

Now, they are more into educational games that provide rewards and bragging rights with their friends. My oldest son has been playing an algebra game that includes multiple members of his school and he is working hard to secure top honors. However, while they outgrew the Webkinz community, they would still use something similar that was more targeted to their age group if they knew it existed.

Gaming Videos

 My oldest son is watching gaming videos. No seriously, he will sit there for hours (if I let him) and watch videos of other people playing a video game. He likes strategy games so he was recently searching for videos on Tropico 3. It just so happens that I was also sitting here working one day while he was doing this and found myself actually watching them too. It was rather entertaining actually, because the guy provided interesting commentary while he was playing. My husband also watched a few minutes and didn’t want to turn it off because he wanted to see what would happen next. Did I ever think I would sit and watch one of these videos? Absolutely not.

However, my son searched for videos on the game because he was deciding whether or not it was worth buying. This resulted in a purchase of the game within 24 hours of watching the videos.

What is important to note here is that it wasn’t the horribly cheesy marketing video that was put out that resulted in the purchase. It was a video from a real gamer named Quill18 who happened to also be a great story teller.

Xbox/Playstation Communities

The other area they frequent is the online space available through Xbox Live or Playstation. They like to play their video games with their friends even if they can’t come over to the house. They have special keyboards attached to their controllers and wear head sets. If I didn’t know better I’d think they were controlling the enterprise space center in my basement.   

Music Videos

Both of my children really like to listen to music. Rather than playing music from their iPods I frequently find them watching music videos on YouTube. This leads to them watching more videos as other videos are recommended at the end of each one. Now, for me, I want a steady stream of music and don’t want to have to search for a new song every 3 minutes or so, but this obviously isn’t an issue for them. Their music searches have resulted in several iTunes downloads for songs they then want to put on their iPod.

So what does all of this mean for marketers? Where are their opportunities to creatively reach their audience using social media?

Tweenager Social Media Opportunities

Online Communities

Networking with friends is clearly important to kids, but parents are really leery to let their young kids dive into traditional social networks due to concerns over privacy and potential pedophile lurkers. However, there is an opportunity for a kid-friendly social network that has appropriate parental controls and notifications. Further if it could incorporate an educational experience it could garner further parental support.  The environment should prevent kids from doing things they don’t realize are dangerous, like making their profile public, etc.

Online Gaming Communities

Does anyone else think it is ridiculous that if you have an Xbox and your friend has a Playstation that you can’t play together online or even chat online together? I certainly do. I understand this is a marketing ploy by the manufacturers to try and force you to own their system, but the reality is that it won’t work. I’m not going to buy two of the same game for each system, even if I do own both. Instead, they are preventing the natural interaction that could increase game sales. Someone should create a system that allows gamers on both consoles to interact through their online connection.

User Generated Content

Kids respond to other kids. Create a strategy to support and promote sharing of user generated content about your products. When you find someone who people respond to, give them a platform to spread the word further.

YouTube Advertising

I don’t know if it is factual evidence, but I can tell you my kids use YouTube more than Google. If you know what they are watching you can create targeted advertising using in-stream videos on the YouTube network. Based on my boys’ patterns, they ignore the text-ad banner at the bottom of the videos. Now, if you want to know how pre-teen girls are using social media, we’ll have to go to the our readers for that one. I am pregnant with our first daughter who is due in 10 days and she won’t have internet access for a couple of years. :-)

Those are just a few ideas, but there have to be others that you see. I know the kid market is a really touchy space and a lot of marketers want to pretend that we aren’t actually “targeting” kids. But we all know that kids lead to a lot of consumer spending, so I’m not going to beat around the bush about the reality that they represent an opportunity if done well.

What do you think? How are your kids using social media networks? Do you see opportunities for marketers to leverage these channels and raise awareness of their products? Please share your thoughts in the comments section.

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About Nichole Kelly

Nichole Kelly

Nichole Kelly is the CEO of Social Media Explorer|SME Digital. She is also the author of How to Measure Social Media. Her team helps companies figure out where social media fits and then helps execute the recommended strategy across the “right” mix of social media channels. Do you want to rock the awesome with your digital marketing strategy? Contact Nichole

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Comments Policy

Comments on Social Media Explorer are open to anyone. However, I will remove any comment that is disrespectful and not in the spirit of intelligent discourse. You are welcome to leave links to content relevant to the conversation, but I reserve the right to remove it if I don't see the relevancy. Be nice, have fun. Fair?

  • http://trafficcoleman.com/blog/official-black-seo-guy/ Black Seo Guy

    Kids do search YouTube for their content I think more then us. The reason is that YouTube gives them that hands on learning.

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

  • http://trafficcoleman.com/blog/official-black-seo-guy/ Black Seo Guy

    Kids do search YouTube for their content I think more then us. The reason is that YouTube gives them that hands on learning.

    “Black Seo Guy “Signing Off”

    • http://twitter.com/Nichole_Kelly Nichole Kelly

      Yeah, it’s kind of crazy to me. But I asked my son about it and he said that it is usually because he is searching for “how to” do something and he likes a video rather than written instructions.

  • http://www.vmeals.com Molly

    “it is inappropriate for businesses to try and create marketing strategies to attract them there because they are violating the terms and conditions of the site.”
    I’d say it’s inappropriate because marketing to kids is inherently problematic. There is a reason for age limits (which plenty of parents have no reservations about ignoring). Children do not have the discernment to separate persuasive speech (aka marketing) from facts. I can’t quite tell if you are actually advocating for marketing to children here. Even as a marketing professional myself, I have to draw the line there. I do find your observations interesting, and as the parent to girls – 16yo, 11yo (and a 7yo boy), I can concur that they use YouTube much more than I do or than any other medium. As a parent, I am constantly helping them navigate the web and become more savvy to the source and motivation of content. I think it’s great that your son went on a user recommendation rather than an ad – but at least the “cheesy ad” was obviously an ad. So much marketing done to children is not so obvious, and its coming at them from all sides-TV, internet, radio – even at school on the bus and the Pepsi sponsored gym floor. How about we not add to that by trying to find new ways to reach them. There should be some safe places left for kids.

    • http://twitter.com/Nichole_Kelly Nichole Kelly

      Molly -Marketing to children is certainly a touchy subject as I mentioned. The point of the post was more to discuss where kids are spending their time and how thier behaviors are different from adults. Whether we agree or not, marketers develop strategies to target kids every day. I think there is a difference from a well executed marketing strategy that helps to provide kids with the content they are looking for and aligining that need with an approach parents support versus predator types of advertising. And you are 100% kids don’t recognize ads like we do. I can’t tell you how many times my kids came to me so excited that they got an offer to win a free iPad and wanted to fill it out. To me these were clearly viruses, but to them it was a golden ticket. If marketers weren’t targeting children there wouldn’t be commercials on the Cartoon Network or Nickelodeon. Rather than deny that it exists I’d like to support a movement that helps to fill the educational gaps and provides a supportive and safe community. Because right now the internet is certainly not a “safe place” for kids. But that’s just my two cents. Thanks for commenting!

  • http://www.online-business-virtual-assistant.com/ Virtual Business Assistant

    Hi Nichole
    There is no doubt that the internet has forever changed the world in which we live. So it can only be expected that it would change the way we sell and marketing our businesses globally.

    • http://twitter.com/Nichole_Kelly Nichole Kelly

      Thanks for commenting!

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  • quill18

    Thanks for the mention!

    – quill18

  • http://www.phibble.com Phil From Phibble

    I am helping my wife market her novel, which is geared towards young adults. Her audience is all over facebook, but you can’t reach them there because they are chatting w/ their friends, plus there’s the creepy factor.

    What we’re doing is creating a soundtrack for the book, which will go up on youtube (where they play). We’re also getting them involved by actually publishing their poems in the back of the book (the poems are original and fit the theme of the book). 
    To Molly’s point, we aren’t selling them, as much as we are making them aware, and letting them participate. I don’t think we need to be selling to kids, but at the same time we need to communicate with them on their level and let them make their own decisions. They’re a lot smarter than we adults give them credit for. 

    Like any marketing, you need to understand your audience and be where they are. 

  • http://www.socialmarketingdynamics.com/ Sydney @ Social Dynamics

    I think you can touchbase with the youth market by simply catering to their tastes, which as you’ve said above are gaming sites and youtube. They’re particularly attached to Tumblr as well, as to how one can generate a campaign or a business strategy for that, I have no clue.

  • Lily

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  • Old School

    Unsure how I stumbled on this miserable article, but my advice is to relax on the social media and have your kids play outside like kids used to do before Social Media started making our country even dumber.

  • Kpagone

    HAVE YOU SEEN THIS?  DO YOU LIKE THE IDEA FOR young KIDS?
    THANKS Kendra @ kpagone@gmail.com

    BizRocket.com Looks to ‘Click’ with Substantial, Underserved Market Segment in $6 Billion Industry; BZRT Well-Positioned with Dynamic ‘Kid-Surfed, Parent Approved’ KidzRocket.com
    CORAL SPRINGS, Fla., Aug 03, 2011 (BUSINESS WIRE) — BizRocket.com, Inc., /quotes/zigman/422030 BZRT -5.21% is pleased to announce that most recent industry trends strongly support pre-teen social …
    MarketWatch – Aug 3, 2011  

  • HM Prévost

    Very informative article. I am also trying to market a novel to the young adult market, and it has been difficult to try to find out exactly how to target teenaged boys. I had a book trailer made, which is on Youtube, but I am not sure if that is having any impact on sales. Time will tell!

    H.M. Prévost
    Author
    Desert Fire (YA thriller)
    http://www.hmprevost.com

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