Merchant Innovation

For Teens, Apps Imitate Life — And Vice Versa

Bashing millennials for being on their phones all the time is so 2015. In fact, researchers are starting to figure out just what makes teenagers tick when it comes to mobile use — and how app developers can capitalize.

The New York Times explained how Talia Kocar, a representative from teen-focused social networking app Wishbone, tried to go past the statistics and explore what habits and behaviors drive teen mobile users to do exactly what they do. Using a focus group, Kocar arrived at some mundane findings — yes, teens do spend a lot of time on their phones — but there were more than a few lessons than just that teens don’t use apps like any other generations.

In particular, Kocar found starkly differing behaviors when the focus group compared their habits on Instagram and Snapchat. Some teens reported that they act as strict curators on the latter platform, deleting posts when they don’t garner enough likes and routinely purging their visible profile of past posts that don’t live up to evolving standards. Naturally, this results in a fewer number of overall posts and, potentially, the loss of users as a result of bad experiences outside of a brand’s control.

To Michael Jones, CEO of Science Inc., Wishbone’s parent company, this dynamic is the great challenge ahead of any company that wants to not only develop but innovate to sustain the popular apps of the future.

“[Teens] have immediate social validation or lack of validation at the touch of a button,” Jones told NYT. “So, if you thought that the immediate gratification generation was two generations ago, you haven’t even seen what immediate gratification looks like until you start spending time with, like, a teen on a phone.”

And with that, the race for app developers to build a perpetual motion machine for instant positive feedback on social media is off.


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