When social media first started, we used the platforms as intended: to share literally everything – what we were doing, what we were eating, where we were, and even what we were feeling, moment by moment.
But things started to change as a younger generation of users started gaining access to social media platforms. In a 2018 Pew Research Center poll, 43 percent of U.S. teens expressed a pressure to only post content that makes them look good to others, and 37 percent of U.S. teens expressed a pressure to post content that would get a lot of likes and comments.
So what are teens doing when it comes to their social profiles? Read on and discover the secret world of Finstas, party accounts and the underlying pressures teens face.
Create an Image of Perfection
Teens are growing up in a completely different world than their parents, and they often face an incredible amount of pressure to create a cool brand online that displays their aesthetic, popularity and sense of humor. It’s a lot of pressure to feel at any age, but especially when you’re a teen.
As a result, content feeds have started to become highly curated. For Millennials, social platforms like Facebook used to function as a time capsule – a place where you could dump hundreds of photos from your camera roll. But Instagram’s layout of only photos has encouraged a more highly curated eye, and teens often think carefully about what and when they post. If a post doesn’t get sufficient engagement, they’ll delete it (this is probably part of what led to Instagram’s most recent decision to do-away with like counts altogether.) If they decide to change their aesthetic, they’ll purge their entire Insta to ensure their content falls in line with their brand.
Finstas = “Fake Instagram”
The constant need to share the most fabulous parts of your life can be exhausting. For years now, younger users have been using Finstas to share more personal content that exposes raw parts of their lives – depression, fear, or just a good meme that doesn’t fit into the aesthetic of their main, “real” Instagram.
Wanting to make content that is highly curated to a close circle of friends isn’t a mystery to the product managers of Instagram – their launch of the Close Friends functionality in Stories feeds into this need for young users to have a space to be a more intimate, and to share more silly, weird, honest and off-kilter content.
Party Accounts are on the Rise
Younger users are also interestingly innovative in the platforms they use, finding ways to readjust the platforms they use to cater to their needs. Take, for example, how teen users have adapted Instagram to serve as an Evite platform. They’ll create an account, set it to private and invite folks by following them directly. The subsequent feed on this Insta serves as a hype machine, getting their guests excited for the event, and even setting the vibe for what that night’s festivities will be.
As marketers, we often create ad campaigns that push for a hashtag or for sharing on social – and yet, it’s likely one of the worst ways to approach this group of users. For them, one of their only forms of capital is social – Instagram, Twitter or even TikTok are spaces that reflect who teens are before they even interact with someone in real life. Would they share a brand’s hashtag just to be a part of your latest ad campaign? Would they post a social asset to their Insta story just because you asked them to?
As we think of how to connect with teen users, and even try to get them to become advocates for our brands, it’s important to keep in mind the powers that play into what and who they share – and try to innovate our tactics beyond a simple share or like.