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What’s next in youth demo convergence with mobile?

June 23, 2011

Lauren DeLisa Coleman

By Lauren DeLisa Coleman

How is youth forming community around mobile? If you are a marketer or advertising guru on the bleeding edge, you are beginning to ask this question more and more.

Beyond what we already know about heavy social media access via one’s mobile phone, what is the current and next hot thing in youth behavior?

Well, given that we already know that African-Americans and Latinos out-index across this medium and given that young African-American culture is historically particularly influential over general youth culture, in general, one can gain a wealth of knowledge simply by gaining greater insight into their mobile lifestyle.

This understanding is crucial if mobile marketers hope to create organic strategies around mobile platforms because all too often the intelligence, particularly on the young, hip demo, is old by the time the research firm has hit its print button.

Rely solely on that and you will end up wasting precious marketing and ad dollars, let alone miss the mark. So let us get to it.

Dual tone
Once we thought that separate and sole mobile social networks would take off. Anyone remember Juice? Great ideas, little scale, for a variety of reasons.

And while “checking in” might seems to resonate with a particular sliver of mobile youth, the influencers still say BBM wins hands down in terms of creating a particular social mobile experience.

No matter what analysts say, make no mistake, BlackBerry Messenger is still and has been a hot consumer ticket and used by key youth influencers. Why?

Because as many have told me, the system provides a way to connect via mobile in a more filtered group and without having to give out your actual number (take that, those who say millennials have little sense of privacy issues).

Thus, these users are getting the benefit of community without the risk of exposure. And community formation is particularly applicable to African-American and Latino youth who exhibit far more “collectivist” values in terms of decision-making than their mainstream youth counterparts.

Keep in mind that these influencers are often times expertly wielding at least two phones as a result of upgrades, deals and more. The second is often an Android-based model.

It is a juggling act, and one they seem to really like.

A quick note here: just two years ago I pointed out to a Universal Music executive that BlackBerry was key to which he pooh-pooh’d the study. There was no Android at the time.

Yet Nielsen shows today that BlackBerry continues to be much more prevalent in the African-American and Latino community than iPhone probably ever will be.

The takeaway? With “insight” such as that, is it any wonder the music industry has suffered?

So that is the now. But what is next in mobile and community for youth, overall?

Medium is the messenger
Many have said that BBM will continue to be a major player because no company has made anything just yet that begins to come close in delivering the same offering.

While I tend to agree, I think Zoove should be monitored as a possible addition but on a slightly different level.

It is far too early to tell about the star-star-vanity number offering, but it could yield some interesting results for marketers who get it right in order to build community around their particular brand or product rather than just broadcast.

Right now, there have seems to have been a brave few who have attached a recording, for example, to the number once an end-user applies this SMS-of-sorts delivery system.

But imagine if one could begin to use the capability to actually form community around a particular topic or product with ambassador integration, share comments about it and forward them?

Now the tricky party, though.

Simply knowing and contemplating all the above is not enough. It is about creating a strategy and planning around such behavior.

Youth influencers will surely leave a brand if not consistently engaged with, but they will also just as surely do an about-face if not spoken to in an organic manner. That could mean not only loss of revenue but loss of market share.

This coupled with the fact that further fragmentation, particularly within the youth demographic, will most likely persist and deepen as the economic gap in our country widens makes it all the more challenging.

So, start considering your best path now before your competitors do and beat you to the finish line.

Lauren DeLisa Coleman is a socio-economic digitalist who studies, writes and consults on the convergence of the 18-34 demo with digital platforms. Reach her at

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