Around half of American teens spend time in online groups or forums, with just 22% never frequenting such sites, according to a a recent study from Pew Research [download page] on teens’ social media habits and experiences.
Close to 1 in 8 teens say they often spend time in these communities of interest, with another 34% stating that they sometimes do so.
Online groups that focus on hobbies (including gaming) are visited by 41% of American teens, with a similar number viewing humor sites (40%). The two following categories are pop culture and sports, which 28% report that they spend time in.
Such topic-based websites can prove useful to marketers looking to improve the effectiveness of their advertising, and of particular note is how the use of these sites varies by gender. As a whole, boys are twice as likely as girls to report that they often spend time in these groups (15% vs. 8%).
As regards the themes of these sites, while more than half (54%) of boys visit online groups around hobbies and gaming, just 29% of girls do. On the other side, around a third (34%) of girls spend time in fashion or style groups, but fewer than 1 in 5 (18%) of boys do.
Other noteworthy areas of divide include:
- Sports (36% of boys vs. 19% of girls);
- Identity-based groups, such as LGBT or people of color (6% vs. 18%);
- Health and wellness (10% vs. 20%);
- Dating and relationships (15% vs. 23%); and
- Religion (5% vs. 11%).
Smaller differences were seen in humor and politics, where boys lead girls by 2% points, and pop culture groups, where girls lead boys by 5% points.
But targeting aside, what else can this report tell marketers about how to reach teens through social media? While just 37% say they use the channel to find trustworthy information, these younger consumers are looking to broaden their horizons. Roughly two-thirds (67%) use social media to find different points of view and nearly 7 in 10 use the platform to interact with people from different backgrounds and experiences. This could be of note to brand marketers that want to explore creative angles in social media, rather than the daily deals and coupons that younger consumers act on.
Brand marketers might also look to align with the themes teens are discussing online. Nearly half (49%) post their accomplishments on social, followed by posts on the topics of family (44%) and emotions and feelings (34%). Furthermore, as they get older and their spending power increases, they are more likely to post on these topics – some 59% of girls age 15-17 post their accomplishments, compared to 41% of those age 13-14.
Previous research from Engagement Labs shows that Gen Z (i.e. those age 13-20) discusses brands frequently in daily conversation, with more than 1 in 10 mentioning household names such as Coca-Cola, Samsung and Nike on a typical day. And while most marketers would envy those figures, the data from Pew provides some guidance as to themes that are likely to resonate with these emerging consumers.
The full report can be viewed here.
About the Data: The analysis by Pew Research Center is based on a survey of 743 randomly selected tends using the NORC AmeriSpeak panel, conducted in Q2 2018.