Are you interested in getting to the essence of content marketing’s addictive power over online audiences?

Follow a few teenagers on social media. Then, watch and learn.

We’re not saying that teenagers know everything; they just think they do. But here’s one important thing they know that you might not: How to adapt content and conversation to different media to better engage an audience.

That’s right, teenagers have “audiences” online today just like brands — and building audiences through social media is an increasingly critical skill for teens scaling the social hierarchy at school.

Not to get too anthropological on you, but we thought we’d share a few things that our study of teens’ social media pages has taught us.

Oversharing? What’s That?

The average teen on social media has more than 200 friends and counting — and they’re not using bots and auto-follow tools to build that following. They are winning friends and influencing people by sharing, and the kids who share the most interesting content — from gossip to funny stories to test tips to a scouting report on the best parties of the weekend — are the ones who put themselves in the running for Most Popular. It’s not an advertising campaign — it’s life. And oversharing? That thought rarely crosses their minds. Telling a little “too much” can be the perfect way to capture people’s attention.

What You See Is Who They Are

Teens take pictures of what they’re doing all day and post them on Instagram, Tumblr and Twitter. They show us what they’re wearing. What they’re eating. What they looked like two years ago when they post pics on Throwback Thursday. They open the door to their lives in a very visual way. They don’t just talk about things — they show us. And when they show us, we understand.

Tiny Screens Rule

If you want to reach a teen, don’t email them — text them. Teens’ communications preferences serve as a great reminder of how people access the Internet today; more people are getting online through smartphones and tablets than laptops and desktops. Teens communicate on tiny screens all day long, and they want to consume information in bite-sized portions. They gravitate to websites responsive enough to adapt to them throughout the day.

Lather, Rinse, Repeat

Fitting your content into 140-character messages can be a challenge for long-winded PR people, but millions of teens have mastered it — even ones who can’t spell (u no what Im tlkn abt). That’s because they know two things: (1) what they want to say, and (2) that on fast-moving Twitter streams, they’re going to have to say it more than once, in different ways, if they want to be noticed. (Marketers call this “repurposing” content.) How much repetition is too much? Kids get feedback at school the next day if their friends saw, or didn’t see, their tweets from the night before — and respond accordingly. (We guess that’s called “market research.”)

So, if you want to learn how to keep users engaged, how to share so that your audience feels as though it’s part of your life, start by following a few teenagers.

But don’t go too far and start buying into their glowing reviews of One Direction. Boy bands are just as lame as they were when you were in high school.