At my agency Prohibition you are probably aware we run one of the UK’s leading student magazines, Student Wire, and subsequently, we have become specialists in student/youth marketing, advising clients and brands of all sizes into how they can engage with this notoriously fickle audience. This has been widened even further with me lecutring at a number of Universities over the last couple of years but I actually enjoy it.

Social media touches every age group, from teens on Whatsapp, Instagram, Vine and Snapchat through to an older market and business professionals on LinkedIn. With its wide spectrum of ages, and in an attempt to hit every market, recent times have seen many different platforms looking to offer funky new exciting options to arguably the most active of all social audiences.

students studying

Parents on Facebook

Whilst the majority of the population have a preference on their preferred social platform (usually Facebook), it is often the case that our students feel the need to get away from the more commonly used platforms to avoid our prying eyes. Maybe the reason for this is because students actually use their social media differently to ‘the rest of us”.

Although it has seen record growth since its initial launch, the social media powerhouse Facebook is now finally (being widely reported) feeling the effects of students’ fickle, ‘grass might be greener on the other-side’ attitude and numbers of sign-ups are starting to recede with the younger market.

The meteoric rise (1.16 billion increase in users) of Facebook over the last five years or so has seen nearly everyone from our wider families create their own profile. Now that your mum, your dad, and even your grandmother are on it, students are doing their typical cringe and avoid routine, by trying to jump to other platforms simply to maintain their privacy and have their fun without being bothered by the rest of us.

It’s been argued that the reason students prefer platforms such as the photo sharing app SnapChat is because it is the newest platform around, which means it remains untainted by the touch of their parents. The fastest growing platform currently, with a 1021% increase is ‘WeChat‘, a chat-based platform that connects to other sites, making it easier to avoid that dreaded comment from the mother. And don’t even get me started on Tinder.

Last year Facebook chief financial officer, David Ebersman, conceded that teen daily use of the site had decreased, and by October it was revealed only 23% of teens preferred it to other platforms. A bit of an embarrassment as creator Mark Zuckerburg boasted that they still had a strong grip on teens at the beginning of 2013.

Too many advertisements can drive fans away
Whenever social media sites really start to make a name for themselves, companies quite rightly start to want a piece of the action, looking to cash-in on the huge audiences. The wave of advertisements now flying across the big platforms could understandably start driving people away. Students and teens understandably look to social media for person-to-person interaction and various studies have shown that students and teens take to social media through both loneliness and social comparison. However, they also don’t need to use it as a way to stay in touch because they actually see each other in the real world every day. They use it to organise dates and share fun imagery from last night’s debauchery or even to discuss forthcoming and past lectures.

Revenue is key to any business social or otherwise, and once the initial market is established, it comes as no surprise that the business model is launched and they turn to advertising methods to generate new revenue streams. WhatsApp lovers might dread to hear that the fact the brands are coming, with many companies already having accounts but so far they have found it difficult to really make a huge success of it. The launch of the ‘My Story’ application has meant that an opening has finally appeared and companies such as Taco Bell, and U.S sitcom ‘Girls’ have been able to get in touch with the new audience.

Statistics vary on what teens, and especially students, are doing across social media in the UK in 2014. What is clear however, is that the questions of privacy on some platforms are pushing people to use alternatives to communicate away from the watchful eye of their parents or me their lecturer. This coupled with the increase of advertisement and smart device use has made the students of today move from platform to platform in fear of being watched and to finally be able to communicate with each other in peace. Good luck to them I say!

Photo Credit: ccarlstead via Compfight cc

About Chris Norton

Chris Norton is the founder of Prohibition and an award winning communications consultant with more than twenty years’ experience. He was a lecturer at Leeds Beckett University and has had a varied PR career having worked both in-house and in a number of large consultancies. He is an Integrated PR and social media blogger and writes on a wide variety of blogs across a huge amount of topics from digital marketing, social media marketing right through to technology and crisis management.