Apps Teens Love

Venture Beat conducted a survey of 7000 teens to find out what apps teens love. By that they mean what apps teens actually use most often.

We were surprised to see Instagram a fair way behind Facebook. I don’t know any teen who still uses Facebook on a regular basis. Contrast this to just 2 years ago when it was quite common to find teenagers on Facebook as the preferred social app. A number of other publications such as Business Intelligence and Forbes have identified Instagram and Youtube as the No.1 and No.2 apps among teenagers.

Youtube’s attraction for teengers needs little explanation. Who doesn’t want to spend all day laughing at fails and aahing at animals. Instagram seems to have taken the pundits by surprise though. It shouldn’t have. It fits the 13-18 year old style of communication: constancy with friends, burst of excitement over something unexpected or new, tags culled from teen-speak. All of these things are easier than the longer conversational styles of Facebook or blogs and, they make for exciting communication as they ensure a high turnover of visual and linguistic stimulation/artefacts.

We should be paying a lot more attention to what the teen market is doing with apps and social media. A lot of ‘studies’ seem to approach the task with a view to analyse such engagements with adult motives and rewards underpinning their research. There is a lot of talk about how these teens will mature and which apps and social media they will continue to use, mainly so that advertisers and industries know who to sell to and where. This is usually done in comparison to how Facebook monetizes itself.

Perhaps a better question is to seek to understand how and why teens use certain apps before a presumptuous leap to catch their future spending dollars. There is a lot of evidence that app usage is guided by the same motives and benefits as choosing which TV programs to watch. They form a kind of social currency. Just as watching certain TV programs gave teens something in common to talk about with other teens, apps are also proving to be a way to strengthen or establish friendships through playground talk and group messaging.  There is a strong ‘real world’ social impact of these apps. Currently universities, and not businesses, are engaged with this kind of research within the larger context of pedagogy. Businesses could benefit from reading some of the academic research into how teens consume media. The short-term ‘follow the ads’ approach is a trailing position. A leading position has to start with understanding the larger issue of media consumption of teens, and their personal and social motives for their selections.

It will be interesting to see what the long-term usage patterns are of  these apps and teens will be.  Will teenagers move on to the next new app or will they stick with the old ones that have been monetized with new-adult income in mind, or will they mature into the adult view of the business of apps? This latter point cannot be taken for granted, given the recent backlash of Facebook users against heavy handed monetization approaches from Facebook. It seems its not only teens we need to understand better.

The full Venture Beat article is here.

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