There's a report out from Nielsen this week saying teens don't use Twitter, which follows a recent report from Morgan Stanley that made the same point. To counter the point, I say flatly, using my best inner teen voice: Whatever.
Other inner teen-voice reactions: So what? Who cares? Saying teens don't Twitter is like like saying college students don't have a career or, 'Gasp, study finds that few under the age of 50 are AARP members.' It's a moot point. Teens will use Twitter when they have a reason to use it. Until then, they have MySpace, Facebook and AIM to keep connected with the online world.
Almost all Twitter users have a reason to be there, be it big or small. Because I write about Twitter, folks ask me whether they should join. I tell them, sure, if you have something to say or sell. Most folks on Twitter, in my estimation, are there to promote something. It's either a product, a service, or themselves.
I'm not being crass. In life, whether we're cognizant of it or not, we're always selling ourselves. What comes out of our mouths, put on paper, how we dress, the car we drive, the job we have, the house we live in, all conveys a message about who we are. While not a pleasant thought for many, it's true.
For those of you who say, I'm not selling myself and I don't care what people think . . . I get that. That doesn't mean people aren't watching. People are assessing, and buying or selling you, based on judgments filtered through their vision of the world. Twitter simply provides an online outlet to what folks are already doing offline.
In my experience, most folks I've encountered on Twitter are promoting their product, service, writing or philosophy. Most Tweets can be traced to those four categories. The latter two usually means the person is a published author or wishes to become one, while the first two mean the person hopes you will like them and their entertaining or informative Tweets enough to buy whatever it is they're selling.
One reason I joined Twitter was to let others there know what I or my colleagues at DailyFinance have written. Otherwise, I use the micro-blogging service to point out articles that other journalists -- who I don't know or work with -- are writing. Twitter has also proved useful in making connections and staying in touch with folks I've met through Twitter or know professionally. I use Facebook, or send e-mails, to stay in touch with family and longtime pals. I'd argue that most of what many teens post on Facebook would not translate well to Twitter.
The Nielsen study underlines America's obsession with youth. Since the 1960s, when advertisers came up with the clever (sarcasm) and successful idea of marketing cigarettes to kids, as a culture, we have gravitated toward giving great importance to what teens think is hot, and who or what is the next big thing.
In this case, the next big thing in 2009 turned out to be Twitter. Wait, teens don't like it? Kids don't use it? How then has Twitter has become popular? This goes against what has been deemed sacred by marketers and advertisers in the past 50 years. Twitter not being cool with teens is the conclusion of the study by Nielsen's David Martin and Sue MacDonaold. The translation is, if kids aren't bonkers about it, it's doomed to fail.
To be clear: love kids! I have a 2-year-old and another on the way. I have eight nieces and nephews under the age of 25 and we all get along. I'm no curmudgeon. That said, I'm not here to wag a finger and say it's a shame we don't value age and wisdom as much as other cultures or the U.S.A. did prior to the 1960s. I'm simply saying how silly it is that we are weighing the opinions of those who have been on earth less than 20 years so heavily.
For example, take Britney Spears, who is 26. How many years ago did she jump the shark? She's 26 and some marketers might argue, passe. Paris Hilton is 28. Her sex tape is soooo 2004. Julia Roberts and I were born in the same year. She's 41. 'Pretty Woman' came out in 1990, when she was 23. How much more influential is she now than she was 18 years ago? If measured by influence among teens or in the world of pop culture, you might get a negative number on a scale of one to 10.
Teens who don't use Twitter will use it once they join the workforce or graduate college. They'll have a reason to use it. They'll start meeting people and want to keep in touch in a way that doesn't involve drunk frat party pictures seen on their Facebook or MySpace pages.
So while marketers and, maybe the folks at Twitter, may be alarmed that teens aren't frantically knocking out 140 Tweets on their iPhones on their way to the movies, I say, give 'em a few years. Soon they'll be buying diapers, paying their taxes and credit card bills and Twittering along with the rest of us geriatrics.
Anthony Massucci is a senior writer for DailyFinance. You may follow him on Twitter at hianthony.
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