How Brands Sell to Teens Online

Girl Teens on Internet


Teenagers and social media are inseparable. Kids will communicate with one another online, all while sitting on the same sofa.

The PBS Frontline documentary film, “Generation Like” (2014) points out that teenagers are often unknowingly taking part in marketing studies and become de facto marketing agents when they “Like” a Facebook page or otherwise share their preferences online. In effect, consumers have become unwitting members of the company sales force. Welcome to the new world of advertising.

Is Social Media Dangerous?

Sure, it’s fun and engaging. Everyone wants to be “liked.” But how much personal data are kids letting dangle in hyperspace? Are there identity protection issues that could have far-reaching effects on a young life? The Federal Trade Commission warns that information stolen from kids can be used to open bank accounts, get credit cards, get a licensed driver, and can cause real damage that can take plenty of headache and money to straighten out.

Content Teenagers Love

Whether you think targeted social media marketing is smart business or sales at its worst, here are four hot areas targeted for social media marketing:

Open Forum Networks: Marketers don’t have to chase after prospects anymore. They are eager to give an unbelievable amount of data for free. Oreo, for instance, posted a photo of a multi-colored cookie, with the caption “Pride,” on its Facebook page and drew massive response. Hundreds of thousands of people Liked the post. Can you imagine how much advertising traction a mailing list of people who support liberal issues could get and what it would be worth?

Video Sites: YouTube, the Google-owned hangout where anyone can post a video about virtually anything, is the second largest search engine on the planet, notes Social Media Today. It is also a place where teens love to congregate. That is why Kohl’s is launching an effort to reach teenage girls via YouTube. The department store planned avenues to reach the teens are the YouTube channels of Amanda Steele, whose teen issues videos get hundreds of thousands of views each, and Lisa Marie Johnson. Lisa’s Baby Food Challenge video boasts 1.3 million views. The plan: The girls will help promote a new line of clothing. S.o. R.a.d.

Memes: Pair a photo with a memorable saying. If it takes off, you’ve created a meme. “A First World Problem,” for instance, is an issue much of the world doesn’t have the luxury to experience. The Gift of Water video that pushed the meme mainstream has currently chalked up about 6.4 million views. The film begins with a poor African child saying, “I hate it when my phone charger won’t reach my bed.” Who could make money off a list of people who care about Third World issues? Go to’s First World Problem page, and you will likely be greeted by an advertising message targeting people with compassion. Dos Equis, by the way, parlayed its “Most Interesting Man in the World” meme into a quick sales increase of over 26 percent, reports Fast Company.

Photographs: Instagram and Pinterest are prime territory for marketers. Our fast-moving society prefers a picture and a few words. Marketers have found that those who have graduated from written posts to photos are typically more experienced and influential than other social media users. It’s a goldmine! Consequently, advertising dollars are moving in that direction. According to the 2014 Social Media Marketing Report, 42 percent of marketers said they planned to increase their spend on Instagram.

Better be a Believer

Whether you are a worried parent, a concerned teen, or a take-it-to-the-bank marketer — it is important to admit something Fortune 500 sales trainer Debbie White points out to her clients constantly: Everything is ABOUT sales, and Everybody is IN sales.

That’s just the way it is in our online, connected world.

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