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One of my friends became relatively high-up at Snap (or Snapchat, as older folks may know it) about 18 months ago. He had used the service before joining the staff, but his first positive takeaway was about youth usage. “Teenagers use this as text in some regards,” he told me, “and some of our competitors in the social space, like Facebook, don’t necessarily have that.” Statistics back that up.

Well, in 2018, teen ownership of smartphones grew to 89% — and it was only 41% in 2012. The first big takeaway there is either “more progressive parents” or “better security features in the eyes of those parents.” Take your pick on that one. (At a recent trade show in the mobile recruiting space, I heard more than a few fathers talk about different monitoring or lock apps, so that’s something.)

This study was done by Common Sense Media, and some of the takeaways include:

  • This age group prefers texting over talking face-to-face with friends, the study found, with 35% choosing texting as their top choice of communicating and 32% preferring in-person conversations. Six years ago, in-person conversation was more popular (49%) than texting (39%).
  • Almost three quarters (70%) of teens use social media multiple times a day, with Snapchat (63%) and Instagram (61%) as the most popular. Facebook’s popularity has collapsed with 15% listing it as their main social networking site, compared to 68% in 2012.

Guess my friend was right.

But what does this all mean for mobile marketers?

  1. To reach teens, involve messaging or texting in-app: That’s what they want. Even if you sell widgets or cool fashion accessories, they want to be part of the community and message their friends about what they’re seeing or how they’re reacting to it. Baking chat/messaging into apps for teen user growth and retention is crucial.
  2. Have a social tie: If you have a cool product, figure out ways for your users to subsequently engage on IG or Snap around it. This could be a branded campaign, sure. Taco Bell is perhaps the most famous recent one, but there are others out there too.
  3. Make sure your UX is set up for prime immediate gratification. And feast on this quote:

They have immediate social validation or lack of validation at the touch of a button,” said Michael Jones, chief executive of Science Inc., which owns Wishbone. “So if you thought that the immediate gratification generation was two generations ago, you haven’t even seen what immediate gratification looks like until you start spending time with, like, a teen on a phone.

4. Video/image-friendly: Goes without saying to some extent as all apps should be, but the ability to watch/share/engage around video is big in the teen set.

On the parental side — since they likely bought the phone — consider having a clear terms of use, making sure your Internet landing page explains what users do on the app, and offer some type of privacy feature if parents are concerned. You may be familiar with the Nicole Lovell case in the Kik app, which horrifically led to the murder of a young girl. Kik offered a statement to 48 Hours after they covered the case, but Forbes subsequently noted that despite a $1B valuation, apps like Kik can totally collapse if they don’t understand the importance of teen security.

Check all the right boxes around texting/comms/social/video, for sure, but also make sure you’re protecting the data and integrity of a set that’s still not even remotely adult.