Don’t Let Teens Ruin Your Social Network

According to deviantART CEO Angelo Sotira, without filters and other curation mechanisms, targeting the teen demographic can be a double-edged sword.


The teen market can be difficult one to corner, but for many social networks, it’s worthwhile to capture the younger demographic. An audience that has free time and the desire to talk is always a good bet. But according to Angelo Sotira, co-founder and CEO of deviantART, an engaged teen audience can be a double-edged sword.

“Imagine that you’re in your apartment, scrolling through the latest confession/messaging/social app, and it’s full of woes of teenage heartbreak. You realize that this app doesn’t speak to you,” Sotira wrote in a post on Recode. When teens represent a high portion of the user base, they can create more perceived noise-to-signal for older users. Your app becomes a teen fad, and potential users skip past it.

Secret and Whisper are popular confession apps, and they don’t really have a very intentional contact filtering system. Secret scans your contacts and populates a list of anonymous contacts, sometimes inserting farther flung confessions. Whisper just collects updates from nearby users. Neither service provides any user control, nor a way to filter what comes through the feeds.

So if these services are designed to be fleeting, how can they to maintain a user base — especially one made up of fickle teens?

Sotira suggests building a light-filtering infrastructure. Asking for just a little bit of information, like age, the kinds of secrets you’re interested in, or just a tracked-like history would serve the purpose just fine. “Get even more non-identifiable data from your members, and leverage this strength in collaborative filtering to win. You may even want to heavily advertise how you’re protecting your members’ data.”