Microsoft, Nickelodeon Survey Examines How Kids are Using Social Networking

Aug 22, 2007  •  Post A Comment

It is often said that the most powerful form of marketing is the recommendation of a friend. Social networking and other forms of technology are changing the definition of “friends” and how friends communicate. This is especially true among kids.
Nickelodeon and Microsoft recently released a survey of how kids use digital technology around the world and how that affects marketing.
“Digital communications—from IM, SMS [and] social networking to e-mail—have all revolutionized how young people communicate with their peers,” said Chris Dobson, VP of global advertising sales at Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions. “We wanted to understand more deeply how young people interact with these technologies, and consequently what this means for our advertising partners focused on reaching this highly engaged and influential audience.”
The number of friends who can affect kids’ opinions is on the increase, thanks to new communications technologies.
“Traditionally, marketing has considered opinion formers and influencers to be a small number of people.
Nowadays it has become a much larger group,” said Colleen Fahey Rush, executive VP of research for MTV Networks, parent of Nickelodeon.
“Friends are becoming as important as brands because young people are so influential to one another,” said Ms. Fahey Rush. “A brand needs to be interesting enough to get people talking about it. A brand needs to be special. If not, it won’t be heard, and that’s what some brands get wrong.”
In the study, the kids surveyed said most of the Web sites they viewed and the viral video content they downloaded came from friends’ recommendations.
“Brands need to provide teens with content that they want to share. Their reward will be the loyalty of brand-savvy groups,” said Caroline Vogt, head of international research at Microsoft Digital Advertising Solutions.
For the survey, Nickelodeon and Microsoft talked to 18,000 “tech-embracing” kids between the ages of 8 and 14 and young people 14 to 24 in 16 countries, including the U.S.
Globally, they found the average younger person connected to digital technology has 94 phone numbers in his or her mobile phone, 78 people on an instant message buddy list and 86 people in his or her social networking community.
These young people still watch TV, with 59 percent saying they prefer their TV to their PCs. However, they are expert multitaskers, able to filter information coming at them from numerous directions.
Other findings of the report include:

  • Kids and young people don’t love the technology itself—they just love how it enables them to communicate all the time, express themselves and be entertained.
  • Despite the advances in communication technology, kid and youth culture looks surprisingly familiar, with almost all young people using technology to enhance rather than replace face-to-face interaction.
  • Globally, the number of friends that young males have more than doubles between the ages of 13-14 and 14-17; it jumps from 24 to 69.
  • The age group and gender that claims the largest number of friends is not girls age 14-17, as one might assume, but boys 18-21, who have an average of 70 friends.
    The study also found differences among kids from country to country.
    In Japan, for example, most kids don’t have their own PC until they go to college, so they don’t use one to socialize; they have few online friends and rarely e-mail or IM. Instead, their key digital device is the mobile phone because it offers privacy and portability.
    Mobile usage is lower in China. Instead, the Internet provides an opportunity for kids there—who have few if any siblings—to reach out and communicate using social networks, blogs and instant messaging.
    The survey found that 93 percent of Chinese young people had more than one friend online that they had never met face to face.
    In countries with good weather where people spend time outdoors, young people use mobile phone for arranging meetings, flirting and taking pictures of friends.
    By contrast, young Danes are most likely to say they can’t live without mobile phones or TV and Dutch youngsters said they can’t live without e-mail.
    This story is part of TVWeek.com’s Media Planner newsletter, a weekly source of breaking news, trend articles, profiles and data about media planning edited by Senior Editor Jon Lafayette.

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