Despite what you may read, see on television, or even experience in your own family, teens are not all that different from the rest of us, really. They like to interact and stay in touch with their friends, check out cool new things online — and yes, they also like to buy things.

There are marked differences in the way teens use social media, however. In order to effectively market to teens using social media platforms like Facebook, YouTube or Twitter, you must be aware of some of the particular nuances of this generation. If want to reach via social media, this article will help you navigate potentially unfamiliar waters.

Teens Are Internet Natives

You may have heard of the term “internet natives.” It simply means that teens have never known a world without the Internet. Information and entertainment that isn’t available online is a foreign concept to most North American teens. In other words, teenagers expect to find just about everything they’re looking for online, whether that’s a television show (streaming TV), a pair of sneakers (e-commerce), or a book (ebooks).

So, if you want to target teens, everything about your business must be accessible online. For most teens, this means having your content formatted for mobile devices. Reiterate this fact in all your social media outposts. Make it clear that your information is available in a number of different formats and make it easy for teens to find what they’re looking for when they interact with your brand via social media.

Adjust Your Tone

If you’re a parent, perhaps you’ve used this line on your kids: “Watch that tone, young man!” Well, if you’re not careful, teens may turn the tables and chastise you for taking the wrong tone with them. According to Forrester Research, despite the fact that 50 percent of the teens it surveyed use Facebook, only six percent of them care to become fans with a brand. However, 28 percent of teens expect brands to listen to what they say and communicate with them on social media sites. That means teens don’t want to be fans of a brand; they want the brand to be fans of them.

When marketing to teens, adjust your tone so that you’re not trying to convince them to “Like” you or your brand. Focus on what you can do for them instead, and they’re more likely to pay attention to you on social media.

Teens Want to Create Content

In a 2008 study, Scientific Commons found that 64 percent of online teenagers engage in at least one type of content creation such as uploading pictures, music and videos to their favorite social media sites. Clearly, online creativity is a trait shared by the majority of young people today.

In order to capitalize on this trend, incorporate content creation opportunities in your business. Allow teenagers to upload photos or videos of your products, or ask them to submit their ideas for promotions or product enhancements. Teens want to be engaged creatively, so make sure you also take a creative approach when soliciting their feedback and patronage.

Get in the Game

Whether it’s via their Xbox 360s, PlayStation 3s, or even their cell phones, teens are into games in a big way. But it’s not just the playing of a particular game that they’re interested in — it’s the rewards that come from gaming too. For example, there’s the camaraderie that develops from playing games with other people online. Other games offer tokens that you can earn and redeem for virtual (or actual) products.

Foursquare has used this concept ingeniously by allowing its members to earn badges in exchange for increased activity on the platform. Games like FarmVille on Facebook allow people to earn rewards and move forward in the game by interacting with their friends online. The net result is more time spent on Facebook and therefore more time exposed to Facebook ads.

Take the proven concept of gaming rewards and apply it to the teen demographic you’re targeting. Create a simple social media contest that pits your teen audience against one another. Offer tangible or virtual rewards to the kids who interact most often with your brand on social media. Look to examples of existing social media games for inspiration or solicit ideas from your teen audience itself.

The Kids These Days

Teens may seem like an enigma, yet we always seem to forget that we were teens once too. Think about how to make your brand, your product or your service relevant to the teen generation today and you’ll have a ready-made customer for years to come.

Have any other ideas of how market to teens with social media? Share your insights in the comments below.

[Source: web:MEDIA, Image Credits: colodio, Un Terrícola extraño, The Michael, Holger Eilhard, Skokie Public Library]