Kids say email is like soooo dead

21 Jul 2007|Leigh Marinner

CNET’s article a couple days ago reminds me of how much we at Cheskin take for granted our insight into teen technology behavior. We’ve been watching teen use of email declining, starting in South Korea some years ago and then spreading eventually to the US. Teens declining use of email doesn’t seem like new news.

The real story is also not a new story. Social networks only work if your friends are using the network – whether that be the landline phone, the cell phone, email, MySpace, Facebook, text messaging or whatever. And teens are fickle and are followers as a characteristic of their lifestage – they’re supposed to be more open to trying new things, be less risk averse, and more connected to what their friends are doing. So fashions tend to move and fade faster with many teens than with other lifestage groups. [This is a generalization – Cheskin has done a teen segmentation which highlights which groups of teens personify this “typical” teen behavior.] And since being part of a social network is so critical for teens, we see rich development in networking behavior. Teen’s core behavior hasn’t changed, just their method.

Teens have moved away from communicating by email, except with their parents, colleges, work, and for shopping, because their friends aren’t checking frequently. An additional appeal of a social networking site like MySpace was that for awhile adults didn’t understand it and weren’t using the site – which made it like a private teen clubhouse. Part of the impetus to move to Facebook was that it was originally limited to college, and then added high school students, as MySpace became more broadly used.

There are certainly disadvantages to using social networking sites versus email – you can’t send attachments, you need to open a profile before sending a message, and some profiles load slowly. But those disadvantages aren’t determinative if Facebook is where your friends are. Facebook recently opened up to hooking in applications, so you can do things like pull in YouTube videos to your profile, which addresses some of the most important teen needs for attachments. And kids will continue to move as the next best thing comes up.

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