For 5 years, Twitter has somehow escaped the notice of the younger generation, with many quite happy to reside on Bebo, MySpace, and then Facebook. However, one has to wonder whether the decline of the latter of these three social networks may begin when the teens grow bored, and move on to pastures new, as they did with MySpace (now almost exclusively the haunt of bands) and Bebo (is it still the place to be for anyone?). If so, then the tipping point for Facebook may have been reached as there seems to be a growing realisation amongst the yoof that Twitter offers a cheap and simple way to communicate. Not only that, but it gives these youngsters a chance to be noticed and a remarkably quick way to share information.

A classic quote from this evening’s investigations as to why the younger generation are leaping aboard the Twitter ship was, “Be warned, Justin Bieber and Glee will be trending before you know it.” Whilst this may strike fear into the hearts of many, especially those who have enjoyed the relative obscurity of Twitter to date, for youngsters, the ability to use Twitter to be heard through something as simple as power in numbers causing global trends, (as was the case with the Arab Spring etc), may prove a bigger pull than even the simplicity. And for marketers targeting the pockets of an increasingly canny set of customers, ignoring Twitter for much longer may carry a costly penalty.

IF, and it is a big IF, the trend towards Twitter amongst teens continues at its seemingly increasing pace, it is likely that shortly the de facto place for youngsters will not be on Facebook, but in 140 character texts and twitpics. At that point, it is likely that Facebook will lose its appeal for many. Just as Pinterest appears to seemingly cater mainly for women of a certain age (but that demographic is rapidly skewing as Pinterest takes advantage of being the de rigueur site for now), Facebook may end up a wasteland without the youngsters to keep us all entertained. After all, how many people over 30 are on Facebook simply because those younger than them made it the site du jour?

Marketers and brands who have omitted to work a Twitter thread into their strategy may find themselves playing a fast catch up, and will also need to understand the fickle nature of this generation. “Everything is only a click away” means that unfollowing a particular brand or company really is incredibly simple, far more so than Unlike on Facebook where so few companies have actually mastered social engagement that your Feed is not constantly cluttered with marketing messages. If a brand ceases to be the flavour of the month, be prepared for your number of followers to decrease rapidly as peer pressure and possibly even a certain type of bullying could take place if your Tweetstream is seen to be full of RTs of the wrong company.

2012 may well be the Year of the Younger Tweet, and we are currently carrying out a survey of 13-18 year olds to determine what is the trigger for the mass move, aside from two which we have heard all too often recently, “Facebook is boring” and “All the good stuff happens first on Twitter”. Some of us oldies knew that a while ago, but it seems the realisation has dawned amongst our teenagers and the sooner internet marketers realise that the downward shift is occurring in Facebook, the sooner it may become obvious that the next budget and strategy meeting of the Marcomms team should probably include a long, hard look at Twitter. After all, Gen Y may not be your customers today, but is is highly likely that they will be in 5-10 years time. Alienate them now at your peril……

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About the author:

A practising internet marketing consultant since 1996, Lindsey Annison helps companies improve their website marketing, online PR and information architecture. Lindsey is also a qualified adult education lecturer and author. As co-founder of the Access to Broadband Campaign, she has been instrumental in the provision of high-speed internet access to rural areas in the UK. Lindsey is also a past winner of Silicon.com's Outstanding Contribution to UK Technology