For some brands, tweens are an extremely valuable demographic. Tweens are defined as being 8 to 12 years olds, in essence, the “in-between” years between being a child and a teenager. According to the U.S. Census, the tween population is projected to hit 23 million by 2020; and the tween segment is growing.
But engaging tweens online is often challenging for advertisers. For instance, many parents limit tweens’ access to the Web. Sites like Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube require users to be at least 13 years old. And, under the law, websites aren’t allowed to collect personal information on tweens (i.e. for ad targeting) without parental consent. However, brands have many opportunities to engage online tweens to start building brand loyalty prior to tweens’ adult years. The key for brands is to understand exactly how tweens want to participate across platforms and how they engage with their ecosystem of peers and branded content.
Tweens’ Online Behavior
Social & Video
Tweens are constantly seeking new places to connect with friends. These places include parent-approved social networking sites like Everloop, content creation sites like FashionPlaytes.com (where girls can design clothes with their friends) and video-sharing sites like KidzVuz. Haul videos—where people show off what they’ve recently purchased—are also popular among young people. However, keep in mind that users must be 13 or older to join and upload videos to YouTube.
In addition to social networking, tweens are big online gamers. According to Mashable, half of girls aged 8 to 12 use the Web for entertainment and social gaming. Tweens spent 38 minutes/month gaming in 2011 vs. 78 minutes/month in Q1 2012.
Many tweens are social networking, gaming and otherwise entertaining themselves on their own smartphones and tablets. In fact, Mashable reported that 35% of girls aged 3 to 12 own a smartphone. Of these users, tweens prefer iOS devices over Android devices:
- 24% use iPads
- 19% use iPod touches
- 11% use iPhones
Additionally, Performics has seen that brands that have younger demographics have greater success driving mobile transactions/revenue because of higher usage of SMS and mobile search.
When brands consider how tweens want to use the Web—social, video, gaming and mobile—they can devise strategies to effectively engage those tweens. Brands should focus experiences around educating tweens while keeping their parents involved, easing the struggle of policing tween activity online. Our top recommendations include:
- Educate & Study the Market: First, always be mindful of complying with the Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA). Discover how best to reach your tweens by researching what media they respond to, what products they’re drawn to and what messages they’ll listen to. Know where they spend time—from parks to concerts to malls; plan your marketing efforts in places where your participant already is and is most likely to be influenced.
- Encourage & Enable Sharing: We’ve seen that tweens want to connect/chat with friends, share with friends and talk about what they like online. Brands should embrace this behavior by encouraging the sharing of appropriate content, video and dialogue on their sites. Enable comment/reviewing capabilities that don’t require tweens to log in to Facebook or register due to legalities around collecting data from tweens. Additionally, brands should create a safe collaboration environment, much like Everloop, which bars bullying and encourages users—for their own protection—not to use their real names while connecting with friends. Aside from connecting with friends, tweens also like connecting with brands. Consider running promotions where tweens can participate with your brand—like submitting photos to be your brand’s next model.
- Provide Experiences, Not Transactions: Whether you’re doing contests, product testing or product promotion, it’s important to provide an atmosphere that encourages fun. With online gaming being of particular interest, avatars and virtual worlds provide a desirable experience for digital tweens. Brands should consider creating games within their owned channels—including desktop and mobile websites and mobile/tablet apps—like quizzes, dress-up/make-up games or cooking games. Enabling these experiences across screens and platforms is especially relevant as tweens look to be entertained during long car or plane rides. And because young people are likely to buy through mobile, providing a streamlined experience on mobile devices is a must.
- Make It Personal & Customized: Tweens seek out unique, customized experiences for themselves and their friends. Brands should enable the co-creation of images and content, while encouraging tweens to share and spread their creations to their fellow peers and to their parents for a potential purchase.
- Appeal to Parents, Too: Engaging tweens often means engaging their parents, too. Appeal to both by offering cool products at reasonable prices or by utilizing coupons and discounts.
These strategies can connect your brand to tweens, impacting brand awareness, consideration, perception and loyalty. Through sharing platforms, games and custom apps, your brand can also inspire tweens to spread positivity about your brand to their friends. Your brand will then be top-of-mind when tweens spend their own money, as well as when they tell their parents what they want. You’ll also build loyalty, and when tweens reach the age where they can join Facebook, Pinterest, Instagram and YouTube, they’ll be likely to advocate for your brand.