SXSW Panel: What Teens Want

I’m attending the four-day SXSW (South By Southwest) Interactive Conference in Austin, TX. This morning I attended a panel discussion on the topic of what teens want in the online world. The panel was composed of seven teens and tweens ranging in age from 12 to 17.This particular panel was ethnically diverse and appeared to be in middle-income families. Several noted that they were given older, slower computers and cell phones without all of the bells and whistles.

Here’s what they want or don’t want:

Most of them were fans of MySpace and or Facebook. However, they did not like the viruses that are sometimes found on MySpace and the plethora of ad banners was a turnoff. Add ons on Facebook were a positive.

Overall they used MySpace and Facebook to communicate with friends, especially those out of town. E-mail was used primarily when registering for Web sites and communicating with grown ups such as teachers or when applying for jobs.

The number one rant was about advertisements, especially pop up ads. Ads containing sound or video files were also annoying to them since they frequently impacted computer speed. Another turn off was having to click through an ad to get to a Web site.

They did like ads that were relevant, for example sports shoe ads on or ads that allowed them to play games.

Attention Web designers: Another major turnoff was Web sites so loaded with ads and other content that it took an excessive amount of time to load.

A question was asked about being involved in causes. The response from several of the older ones was that they liked it when the cause’s online site involved them in a game or other activity. They usually became involved because of other friend’s involvement. It appears to me that this is a classic case of Moore’s Diffusion Curve. Innovators, folllowed by early adopters, etc.

Conclusion: Organizations are going to need a strong presence on social networking sites such as MySpace and Facebook. Because there are different demographics for each site, it’s going to be necessary that you have a presence on both.

These kids are not stupid, don’t try to fool them. Watch the number of ads and do your best to make them relevant.