Corporate Eye

Connecting Brand Messages with Teens on the Social Web

The teen demographic is a coveted consumer audience that can drive big bucks to a business, and these days, teens spend a lot of time on the social Web.  Whether they’re exchanging messages on Facebook or uploading videos to YouTube, they’re an active, influential group, and brands are desperately trying to connect with them.

In a May 2010 report, myYearbook and Ketchum revealed data about online teen influencers and how brands can engage them on the social Web.  The most interesting results show the sources of information that U.S. teen influencers (i.e., the top 15% most active and engaged myYearbook members) trust the most are as follows:

  • 52% trust friends
  • 13% trust consumer reviews
  • 9% trust adults
  • 5% trust what they hear from ads
  • 5% trust information that comes directly from companies
  • 4% trust celebrities
  • 3% trust bloggers
  • 3% trust news reporters
  • 7% trust other sources

If you try to remember what you were like as a teenager, then these results probably aren’t too surprising.  The key for brands to connect with the teen audience on the social Web is to get teen online influencers to talk about them, recommend them, and share content from them.

Interestingly, most teens who responded to the survey indicated that they prefer to share humorous content with their friends online but prefer straightforward content from companies and brands.  This shouldn’t be that surprising given that 2010 is the year of brand transparency for most consumer demographics.

Considering that the study also found that, “the top 15% of teen social network users are 70% more likely to share purchase decision information with their friends” (via eMarketer), brand managers would be wise to take note of the products teens are most likely to recommend and talk about with their online friends.  As shown in the chart below, entertainment, electronics, new food or beverage, clothing, footwear and sneakers, video games, and makeup and skin care products are the most talked about products among teens who spend time on the social Web.


It’s important to note this doesn’t mean that other products aren’t discussed by teens at all on the social Web, but brands that operate in the channels listed above are missing a big opportunity if they’re not trying to engage teens on the social Web where they’re already spending time.

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Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.