Young people are turning to newer platforms like Snapchat, Kik and Instagram as marketers struggle to keep up
How do you keep up with platform-hopping kids? Some youth brands are still trying to understand how to promote their messages through Facebook and Twitter, while their target market are defecting to other sites or mobile messaging for their social media needs.
Facebook and Twitter are no longer the only social networks that MTV uses to engage with its viewers.
The youth TV channel is turning to emerging social media platforms such as Instagram, Snapchat, Kik, Vine and Tumblr as it seeks to boost interest in its shows among teenagers.
The channel has used mobile messaging service Snapchat to promote series six of its hit reality show Geordie Shore. Snapchat, which claims it has been downloaded on to a quarter of UK smartphones, allows users to send photos and short videos with written messages to specified friends. It automatically deletes them a few seconds after they are viewed, avoiding the risk of later embarrassment. Earlier this year, MTV set up a Snapchat account for Geordie Shore and asked its followers on Facebook and Twitter to add the address to their Snapchat accounts. It then sent them exclusive pictures via Snapchat of the cast’s holiday in Australia.
MTV’s UK and Ireland marketing chief Jo Bacon says that while the established social sites such as Facebook and Twitter offer in-depth analytics – tools to help brands analyse the effectiveness of their campaigns – the new platforms are something of a stab in the dark. Snapchat offers little useful data about the Geordie Shore campaign, though MTV’s social media team counted manually that the photos were accepted by 5,000 users in one day, which was deemed a success.
Bacon says MTV keeps up with the latest social media platforms as they are crucial in boosting the appeal of reality shows such as Geordie Shore, The Valleys and Catfish. But with teenagers spending less time on Facebook – the social network recently revealed that its daily usage among younger teenagers is declining – there are fears that brands may struggle to connect with this age group through social media.
Some believe teenagers are put off Facebook sites because they know their parents are also on them, but Bacon says the take-up of emerging platforms is driven more by influential teens seeking to impress their friends rather than kids looking to escape the watchful eyes of their parents. “The development of these up-and-coming sites is driven by fear of missing out. If there’s a social group of friends connecting through a particular platform, there’s a snowball effect as the other teens in the group need to be on there to communicate with their friends,” she says. Finding the latest platform is social currency in the school playground, she adds, with teens earning kudos by finding new sites and telling their friends how to use them.
MTV has also connected with viewers through mobile app Kik, which claims to have 90 million users and says it is signing up 200,000 users every day. A Kik spokeswoman says: “Kik’s user base skews strongly towards the youth demographic and Kik is very open to working with brands who are looking to engage with their target audience.” Kik has created a new service “Kik Cards” which allow users and brands to post images and videos without leaving the app.
Neil Major, strategy director at agency Yomego, says that while older generations are used to putting their entire lives on Facebook, teenagers see this as something of a chore, and are looking for simpler ways to communicate. “Sites such as Instagram and Tumblr are driven more by people’s interests than their social personas,” he says.
He thinks there are justified fears that brands could miss out as teens spend more time on messaging apps, as they are often less accommodating for advertising than established social sites. He points to WhatsApp, which pioneered mobile messaging platforms and now claims to have a bigger user base than Twitter. It refuses to take ads and has a “manifesto against advertising”. It makes money through charging for app downloads – the service is free for the first year after which it charges 99 cents a year.
Another brand that has tried out Snapchat in the UK is Co-Operative Retail, which ran a coupon campaign in the autumn targeting students and offering £30 off a laptop. Co-op ran mobile ads directing people to a site which told them they could sign up for a discount code via Snapchat and helped them download the app if they didn’t already have it. Research from the Co-Op’s consumer panel shows that one in five of the target market were aware of the campaign and one in ten took part.
Co-op’s social media lead Gail Lyon says one of the attractions of Snapchat is that it is not crowded with other brands and that there is a fun element to trying out a new service. “With the increased monetisation of Facebook and Twitter, new sites are popping up all over the place. We are looking at them to see if they fit and have a role in our business. We don’t want to do things for novelty value but to find the best network for our objectives,” she says.
Many of the sites will no doubt decide they need to attract advertisers in years to come, but with the proliferation of mobile messaging platforms, brands need to start experimenting to find out how they can stay in touch with the elusive teenage market.
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