Summer Intern Social Media Report


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We asked our summer intern to do some research on how youth use social media. This is a summary of what she found!

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Summer Intern Social Media Report

  1. 1. New Ink | Communication Insights October 2009 Matthew Robson, a 15-year old intern at Morgan Stanley in the UK, wrote a report earlier this year about teens and their use of media. The global headlines generated by this report reflect a widespread interest in answering the question ‘how do today’s young adults consume media?’ To provide a Canadian perspective on the topic, Cohn & Wolfe asked our summer intern (Rachel Halpern – a certified ‘gen Y-er’, slightly older than Matthew) how Canadian youth consume media and exchange information. Without pretense of scientific methodology, Rachel used social media to survey her peer group and their siblings this past August, and provided the results in her own report. Whether currently communicating with youth as consumers and influencers, or looking ahead to communicating with future employees, Rachel’s observations make an interesting contribution to the dialogue about changing modes of communication and the implications they may hold. If you are interested in seeing Rachel’s full report, please do not hesitate to give us a call. Intern Report: Youth in Canada and Media Consumption The secret is out – the media landscape is changing. Social media and digital technologies have had a transformative impact on information Rachel’s research audience was made up sharing and media consumption. of a group of 38 of her peers and their At the forefront of this change stands a powerful and influential group: siblings, distinguished by the following youth (teens, and young adults). While we know their opinions and age groups: 14-17 (high school), 18-21 habits will change, understanding their attitudes to information gathering and communicating may help all of us become better (university) and 22-24 (recent grads) communicators and shed light on the future shape of the media world. Who’s bringing me my news? “usually iʼll (sic) read the news online - at the Across all age groups, young information seekers cite bottom of my msn messenger chat thing their friends as their number one source of news. thereʼs a little news thing that cycles through 14-17 year olds are passive consumers of media, and expect that the news will present itself to them (sort of like and if something catches my eye iʼll click it, dinner). On the other end of the spectrum are 22-24 year otherwise, i usually watch tv before school” olds, who more actively seek information through traditional and online media, signaling a relationship between maturity and interest in their world beyond their immediate circle of friends. Backed by experience, insights and support of a global network, Cohn & Wolfe has provided expert communications services for nearly 20 years. With strategically located offices in Calgary, Toronto and Montreal, Cohn & Wolfe has a proud Canadian history, and over 50 of the country’s most creative thinkers. Cohn & Wolfe Toronto is located at 2 Bloor Street East, Suite 1700, Toronto, Ontario, M4W 1A8. If you have any questions about this report, or Cohn & Wolfe’s services, please call us at 416-924-5700, or visit our website at
  2. 2. OMG call 911 - I lost my phone! With an abundance of channels to choose from, youth and teens rely on their mobile devices, text messaging to communicate with their friends. To supplement, 14-17 year olds also turn to Facebook, instant messaging and face- to-face communication, while 18-21 year olds and 22-24 year olds use face-to-face and telephone communication. (Research sponsors note: we didn’t ask how youth communicate with their parents – on the assumption the answer would be ‘as little as possible’) POS G2G* - What are they doing online? Facebook vs. Twitter 14-17 year olds use the internet for entertainment and leisure Almost everyone had a Facebook account, purposes, spending most of their time instant messaging and which they use to keep in contact with on social networking sites. While entertainment and leisure friends and acquaintances. It has become use continues into the older age brackets, as they get older, the ultimate communication portal, and youth become more focused in their use of the internet, spending more and more time actively seeking specific young people are loyal to it. On the other information. hand, Twitter was universally not understood by our youth audience. 14-17 *(Parent Over Shoulder – Got to Go) year olds did not use Twitter, and only one third of the older groups Surfing favourites? Given their interest in social networking and entertainment, it is no surprise that Facebook is the favourite website among all age groups. Beyond Facebook, YouTube and other entertainment-based sites were noted by 14-17 year olds. Older youth added search engine sites (Google, Yahoo), news and entertainment websites such as Perez Hilton to the list of favourites. Yet, only the grads included news websites on the list, suggesting that an interest in news may be sparked by age (or the post-grad reality that the economy really does matter). If youth are the future – are they watching their investment? 14-17 year olds typically do not read the news, and when they do, they expect it to be presented to them. Some 18-21 year olds read the news, relying mainly on hyper-current online sources or television. They prefer brief, convenient updates. Meanwhile, 22-24 year olds read the newspaper, but opt for free versions found at school or at the bus stop. They skim traditional news media at best, confident that important news will make its way to them through their friends. Newspapers = 8-track + VHS? “Yes, I think the traditional hard-copy newspapers are soon to be Approximately half of the older youth obsolete. Why? expect traditional newspapers to disappear, giving way to online 1) People don't have the time to visually search front to versions that they say are easier to back to find what they want to read. It’s much easier to navigate, cheaper, and more type in a search engine. environmentally friendly. If not in the near future, this group believes the 2) Environmental waste. So many pieces of paper when fall of newspapers could come people will probably only read one or two articles. with the death of the baby boomer generation. Interestingly, our youngest 3) The generation who actually enjoy reading the paper group of participants stated that will not be alive in a few decades.” traditionalists will always prefer to read a printed paper.
  3. 3. Final thoughts The results identified some interesting trends for how young people get information and consume media. Teenagers and young adults alike enjoy using mobile devices to communicate, and text messaging in particular. They are comfortable with receiving top-line information – only the most significant news is of interest, and they prefer it in bite- sized chunks. Teenagers seem to expect news to come to them, rather than seek it out themselves. Friends are a prized source of information, and highlights from online resources and television programs simply compliment the word-of-mouth method. While traditional newspapers are viewed as somewhat archaic, they are recognized as a significant ritual or habit for older generations. For participants, social networking was a significant priority. Facebook captivates them with its “all-in-one” package service, allowing users to keep in touch with friends while providing personal organizing features, all for free. Facebook serves as entertainment for younger teens, while providing university/college-aged people We may be speaking the with an ability to keep in touch and share information, even while living away same language – but one of from home. Even with all the media buzz, Twitter is not yet on the radar of most us will have an accent. young people, who are content with using Facebook for the bulk of their online social networking. While these results are not surprising, they do provide some additional insight into what young people look for and respond to when it comes to getting information and using today’s various media options. As this generation ages, media will undoubtedly continue to evolve with them. With millenials (those born between 1981 and 2000) scheduled to overtake baby boomers in the workplace within the next two years, ignorance of changing mores of communication carries significant economic and social risk. We may be speaking the same language – but one of us will have an accent. Rachel Halpern is a graduate of the University of Western Ontario (2008) where she also served as communications officer of the University Students’ Council, and is currently enrolled in the Humber College post-graduate programme in Public Relations. Research guidance and editorial support was provided by millennials Camille DePutter and Stephanie Yack, with sponsorship by resident boomer David Gordon, all of Cohn & Wolfe.