How Can Marketers Attract Pre-Teens with Social Media?

by Nichole Kelly |

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 the Author

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