Twitter And Teens


Where are they?

(WORLD) Mark and I were discussing recently why Twitter is not popular with young people.

Here’s our take:

  • it’s not feature-rich: sure you can add friends and follow plus DM or reply but apart from the 140 character update option you can’t do anything else (in comparison to other social networking sites young people populate)
  • the service exists: it’s fast been integrated into the aforementioned sites as standard
  • it’s already populated by adults: it’s the same as young people getting into Bowls (even if it was fun it’s already dominated by another generation so not cool by association)

NB: I tweeted the same question out to my network and here’s what @m_as, @innovativeteach, @davestacey, @timdavies, @rohdesign, @ianbetteridge, @c_and_t think.

Leave a comment below on your take on why young people are not all over Twitter

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25 thoughts on “Twitter And Teens”

  1. I think it is partly because the service intitially seems so limited and when you compare to Facebook status, MSN etc the response must be ‘why bother’. I also think it is becuase the functionality does not allow you to control the stream. You cannot form groups or engage in conversations. I have a love / frustrated realtionship with Twitter and am trying to convince them to design ‘My twitter’ as described and illustrated on my blog. Perhaps you can lend your support to the campaign:-)

  2. In my opinion, Twitter is all about “I want the world to know…”. Kids are usually looking for something more focused, meaning that for them it’s all about “I want my friends to know…”. So they choose a closed network rather than a more open network. Just my two cents…


  3. Thanks for the reinforcing comments guys – if you haven’t already check out the Daily Show link courtesy of Tricia – lots of giggles :-)

  4. @Chris: I think that’s a very valid point. Its interesting how we’ve drilled into kids, not to talk to strangers (particularly online) and now here we all are as adults, doing the exact opposite!

    Just to expand on point 2 of the list above, we were talking about Kids having mobiles, which already have them instantly connecting with their close network, and they have status updates on all the big social spaces too (myspace, bebo, facebook) – so where’s the excitement in having access to ‘another’ status site? There isn’t imo.

    I think a big youth shift to Twitter could still happen, but only if their peers jumped on it, and possibly if more customisation features were added.

  5. I think that teens won’t be into twitter as it isn’t as interactive as other social networking sites – plus who wants to look at the lives of their parents, teachers etc. If I was a teen now I wouldn’t!

  6. A lot of my uni friends have tried to get into Twitter, there is literally 0% that have carried on with it after signing up. They complain that they ‘don’t get it’.

    This is perhaps because:

    1) Twitter isn’t the new Facebook. It’s not adding to new things, it’s taking things away.

    2) Twitter is basically the status update feature on Facebook – some young people on Facebook don’t update their statuses!

    3) If all young people WERE to update their status, Twitter would need literally a whole network of young people to join, in order to be effective and popular. After all, who wants to be the only person they know on Twitter? It ain’t fun.

  7. I’m starting to get lost now….
    Trying to work out the ‘best’ way of introducing SN sites in to my service is so difficult. Facebook, is it ‘to’ open? Twitter simply doesn’t seem popular with young people round here. Myspace seems to still be the most popular with 13-19? and now I’m toying with Flickr asa mapping and advertising tool (but will enough clients be there to look?)
    Personally for my life I use Flickr (becuase I like pictures) and Blogger (as it enables me an outlet for thoughts).
    I have been wondering if the MSN drive towards SNing will be ‘the new facebook’?
    What do people think? ‘The new facebook will be…………’

  8. @Jess – thanks for those great insights regarding your peer network.

    @Matt – there isn’t one answer plus if there were it would change in the next year or so anyway. The focus comes from what is of value and benefit for you and your purpose… do you want to simply ‘broadcast’ or ‘interact’? Are you looking to create a community or a brand?

    In answer to your question though : the new Facebook will be… more niched!

  9. try categorising them like this Matt –

    A bit like a pub – old gits moaning about the world/jobs/kids/life.

    A bit like a playground – kids moaning about their lack of world/jobs/kids/life.

    A bit like a bedsit – students wondering how they can avoid the world/jobs/kids/life.

    etc etc

    mark :)

  10. My 19 year old daughter said recently that she doesn’t use Twitter because no-one else she knows uses it. However, three weeks ago she set up an account and followed me, (as a joke!), and a couple of her friends set up accounts at the same time – none of them have done anything with them. Her reaction to Twitter was “I don’t get it”. She uses Facebook on a daily basis to update, share photos and keep in touch with people.

  11. I tried to introduce my lil sisters to it (16 and 18 at the time), and they basically tweeted their confusion and gave up! Check their tweets @:

    Prime examples of teen twitter headaches.

    I tried to sell the texting element when that was free and they still didn’t get into it. Also they found random people choosing to follow them a bit odd!

    Does Twitter actually have a lil video explaining the benefits? Examples of it’s funky usages like flickr and other peeps do?

  12. A lot of reaction from peers in regards to Facebook’s new change – going more in the way of Twitter… Facebook-ing friends don’t seem to like change, at all. Why fix it if it isn’t broken? etc.

    Would the two ever merge?!

  13. I’m thinking Twitter will go more like Facebook – streaming tweets so you don’t have to refresh plus other options like groups and threads…

    *DK puts away his crystal ball.

  14. @Bobbie – classic tweets on those girls pages there. very funny stuff. I’m not surprised they don’t get it tho… twitter doesn’t do anything like what they are used to atm.

    as for video’s I found a commoncraft one, which is excellent, but sadly, just really dull if you’re a teenager.

  15. one of those 35yr olds is me :( *cries*

    But yes, ‘old people’, there’s a surprise – I recently blogged about what on earth young people could find interesting on a social network thats full of adults – the only thing I could conclude (apart from stalking their favourite celebrities tweets all day) is for networking for work experience placements.

    If I had to put a young person in a headlock and try to convince them of Twitters value, I’d say something like:

    ‘your mates knowledge and connections are so limiting to your future potential to work, learn, travel and change your life, the sooner you start connecting with adults, the more ahead you’ll get in life’

    …something like that.


  16. I’d do that – anyone want to hire me?! (yes, I am using MS as a potential channel for getting employed…!) but I am entirely serious. Though, I am still at University…

  17. Interesting thread – I love Mark’s view:

    A bit like a pub – old gits moaning about the world/jobs/kids/life.

    It’s strange that I heard the early adopters of Twitter were teens using it through their mobiles when the SMS service was free. perhaps the web/ 3G mobile data only way Twitter has gone attract the iPhone generation, which aren’t the teens?

    I think teens doing Twitter is unlikely to snowball – theory is people only have 6 websites they regularly visit – MySpace, Bebo, Facebook, Youtube are way more relevant and feature-rich for teens to warrant introducing another social ntworking site into that elusive 6.

  18. I didn’t get Twitter for a long time and I’m an adult. I signed up over a year ago posted some pointless stuff about how I had a cold or this and that, got bored and left. Then recently forced myself to use it again with all the hysteria surrounding it.

    Two things made me finally get Twitter:

    1. The Search Facility – when I realised I could search on keywords that interested me and I would get back postings relating to those keywords, Twitter became exciting. I started following people who were interest in Rugby.. UFC… whatever. This meant I was getting information that I was actually interested in, instead of a bunch of stuff I wasn’t.

    2. A stand alone Twitter client – By dumping the website and using Tweetdeck (now I am using Tweetie, much simpler for me) I was getting the postings pushed to me, instead of having to go to the website and keep refreshing. This made the conversations much more dynamic and fluid. also more distracting from work but thats ok I need distractions.

    Twitter is about so much more than just keeping in touch with friends. It is probably the most complex social networking mediums there is, because it can be pretty much be anything you want, your not guided or told what to say and where. Its not so easily defined as other platforms like Facebook or myspace. This is no more evident than with the Twitter website, as it is so simple and minimal it’s difficult to know where to start and what to do. Also as its just text and no pretty pictures I think that can turn young people off too, its just not very accessible. Facebook and Myspace pages have alot of structure and convention about them, they look familiar and therefore so much easier to use.

    But of course the simplicity and speed of Twitter are its strengths over the other platforms and why alot of people are choosing it over the more feature rich, bloated platforms. The ability to endlessly customise your page, being bombarded by pokes or zombies, having a calender, licking someone’s lollypop, I think alot people have got bored of this, they just want to get their message to the world in the quickest, most uncluttered way possible.

    So where are they? Well I think they are using the tool thats right for them, right now. Maybe in a week, maybe in a year you will find them on Twitter when they are ready but at the moment they are having to much fun keeping in touch with their friends in a fun environment, being a zombie and poking people has its benefits too.

    I think pushing Twitter as a platform for keeping in touch with friends is perhaps not the best way to promote it to young people, because they will only get frustrated with that use of Twitter initally, but pushing it as an information resource might give them a way in.

    Sorry for such a long post as my first posting, I guess I didn’t realise I had so much to say on the the matter.

  19. great answer Andy. Its good to hear about your experience with Twitter. I myself didn’t ‘get it’ for a long time, I also think that the creators of it, didn’t realise its full potential either – so we can all be excused from scratching our heads at it!

    I liked your words about ‘pushing Twitter as a platform for keeping in touch with friends’ there at the end. I agree that it shouldn’t be promoted to young (or older) people in this way. Much better to explain it as a ‘real time’ search engine from sources you choose – or a way to literally ‘get into the minds’ of good people that you otherwise wouldn’t have access to. eg: kids following @tonyhawk – or any other celebrity.

    thanks for the comment – this is proving a popular post!

  20. I am new to twitter and although I haven’t fully grasped it, I am very fascinated by it. As a teacher, I am always trying to find meaningful and exciting ways to connect with students so I was really surprised and disappointed to find in a number of recent readings that Twitter is not very popular with teens.

    I understand to an extent why many teens stay away. It lacks all the personalized bells and whistles of other networks and as a means of socializing with friends it seems unnecessary when there’s already so much that is familiar and comfortable.

    Perhaps there’s a lack of understanding as to what Twitter actually can offer. It’s like old school mail and it’s not the Ed McMahon Millions junk mail kind (yeah I’m dating myself)! This is “mail” that is asked for through the network of “following’s” that has been personally created by the user. When tweets role in it’s exciting to think about what cool link has graffiti artist Saber found or what new picture does David Choe have to show. It feels good to get something in the mail and it’s easy to say thanks for sharing.

    Twitter doesn’t need to be used as a personal social network. Keep the facebook. Use it instead to treat yourself. It’s a buffet of bite-sized goodness! Gorge away my teen friends!

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