Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Tweens on Twitter?

Last week, The Jonas Brothers created a Twitter account at @JonasBrothers. At first, just a few announcements were posted to the account but the band members began talking with fans yesterday. Their followers reached 60,000 in less than a week and added another 6,000 since last night. They could easily reach 100,000 followers by the end of the week and could surpass Britney Spears (#2) & Ashton Kutcher (#3) in followers if they keep up this momentum.

The Jonas Brothers are huge among the Tween (8-13 years old) audience as well as some Teens. They were mobbed the outside of the Manhattan MTV offices during Jonas Brothers Week last year which I saw for myself when I tried to pass by. The band earned about $12 million in 2007 and in 2008 they were listed #9 on the richest pop acts of 2008 list making over sixty-two million dollars.

Twitter has experienced different waves of users: 1) the tech, early first adopters (2006-2007), 2) social media types, bloggers and some entrepreneurs (2007-2008), 3) marketing folks, companies & celebrities (2008-2009) [these are general trends, YMMV!]. But Teens have never showed much interest in Twitter, they seemed to prefer phone calls, texting and traditional instant messaging to a "micro-blogging" social network.

But the presence of Teen/Tween celebrities could change that aversion. Twitter offers the illusion of immediate and intimate contact with pop idols. Although people like Ashton Kutcher & Miley Cyrus don't follow many noncelebrities, they will selectively (like 1 out 10,000) respond to people's @replies to them. This possibility of direct contact is very seductive in our celebrity-oriented popular culture.

Whether young people will begin to flock to Twitter remains to be seen, it's been less than a day since @JonasBrothers has been active but when it was, Jonas-related topics were 4 of the top 10 trending topics on Twitter. But Miley Cyrus has been Tweeting for less than 3 weeks and already has 253,318 Followers while Demetria Lovato (@ddlovato), another Disney celebrity, has 133,832 Followers. I can only see this growing as Tween fans are extremely devoted audiences.

The larger question to most of us is how an influx of younger users would change the atmosphere on Twitter. Twitter's Terms of Use insist that people creating new accounts be at least 13 years old but Twitter's execs have been shown to be very hands off in terms of regulating user behavior beyond suspending the most obvious spam accounts. I think they will either end up ignoring this new user base or changing the TOU.

I don't see a whole lot of cross-over between the Tween/Teen crowd and Adult users of Twitter. Older users are primarily involved in Twitter as a form of expression & interaction with others like themselves, as entertainment or to create business connections. There are a few enterprising teenagers who have large adult followings but that is in spite of their young age, not because of it.

My other guess is that--in my foggy memory--kids like to talk to other teenagers about each other so you might see more of them adopting protected status for their updates. This would give them control over who to allow into their conversational circle and allay parental fears about creepy people on the network engaging their children.

What do you think?


Brenda Young said...

I agree that tweens won't have much crossover to other groups on Twitter. Facebook doesn't have much crossover for those who are using it as a way to connect with friends and those who are using it as a way to network for business.

I think that is part of the draw to using Twitter. It's simplicity makes it easy to conform to varying uses of the app. You don't have to spam all your friends to join you on (yet another) social networking platform. You just follow or unfollow. And the fact that anyone connects to a super-connected person on the site doesn't really affect anyone who has chosen to have a relatively smaller group of friends on the site. Thus, a person could follow a few people like the Jonas Brothers, or Oprah and not have the very large celebrity network create an adverse effect on an otherwise close-in group of follow / followers, unless, of course the celebrity is a relentless poster (and then it's easy enough to simply unfollow).

I have been on Twitter since 2007 when there were only a couple hundred thousand users on the site. Since I do not follow thousands of people and have chosen carefully who I have added to my follow group, I have maintained much of the value I originally found in Twitter.

I encourage people to look at any of these new and social media apps as a part of a whole, and decide why they want to use it before they sign up. Will it be for their personal use or for business or other uses? It's easy to get caught up in a numbers game if you haven't decided why you want to use it, or any other site for that matter.

Tweens aren't likely to think things through that much but, Twitter allows the use of multiple accounts, so it's possible to create an account to follow a celebrity who has thousands of followers for one account and also have a personal account for friends and family.

I have an account for my business use, another for friends and family and others that I manage for various organizations.

We need to keep in mind that all of these social media sites have been around and in use for less than ten years. It remains to be seen what sites survive over the long term, how they will develop over time, and how useful they will be to people.

Darren Daz Cox said...

I think it's a good thing, the more the merrier.
Instant communication is a brilliant idea.