Marketing to Teens: Email in an Era of Social Media?


Marketing to Teens: Email in an Era of Social Media?

Nov 06, 2008By Michael Stoner

Well, duh! Sounds like pretty much of a no-brainer: and, in fact, I’ve heard and read variations of that statement repeated in the last several weeks by a number of people who are responsible for communicating with teens on behalf of college and university admissions offices.

The fact is, though, it may not be true.

According to a new study by the Ball State Center for Media Design and ExactTarget, while 42 percent of teens prefer to text each other, 62 percent prefer to receive promotions via email vs. 1 percent who prefer to receive them by text.

For this study, the research partners developed personas-seven distinct groups of people who use media in different ways and prefer different types of communications. Teens 15–17 use “all things digital” and consume media simultaneously-IMing, social networking, texting, watching TV. Teens do use email, but they much prefer other media:

Their use of IM, text messaging, and participation in social networking is significantly more than any other cohort. Our research shows that 77% use IM (64% more than other groups), 76% participate in social networking sites (more than twice the average), and 70% text message (67% higher than average). Additionally, 42% of Teens prefer text messaging for personal communication, 27% still prefer email for personal communication, 16% prefer IM, and 8% communicate through social networking sites.

While teens don’t do a lot of shopping online-yet-they are similar to other groups (college students, working adults, etc.) in prefering traditional direct marketing channels for marketing communications, including direct mail and email.

Only 13 percent of teens have made a purchase influenced by text marketing and 12 percent have made a purchase resulting from marketing through a social networking site. There is definitely some momentum toward these channels among teens, bu when it comes to driving conversions, email still outperforms the influence of text messaging, social networks, and IM combined.

And, “direct mail is universally seen as the most appropriate channel for marketers to communicate with them, and Teens say direct mail has had more influence on purchasing than any other direct marketing channel.”

Having noted that, however, here’s an important caveat: the key concept is to put the audience in control. For ExactTarget (an email marketing firm), that means marketers should ” … communicate with each subscriber with content, frequency, and media selection that meets their stated preferences.

More good insights in the white paper [this link takes you to a registration form; you register and receive the white paper for free].

Ball State Center for Media Design is a research and development facility focused on the creation, testing, and practical application of digital technologies for business, classroom, home, and community.

  • Michael Stoner Co-Founder and Co-Owner Was I born a skeptic or did I become one as I watched the hypestorm gather during the dotcom years, recede, and congeal once more as we come to terms with our online, social, mobile world? Whatever. I'm not much interested in cutting edge but what actually works for real people in the real world. Does that make me a bad person?