Young Users Hating on Brands

Bad news for brands enamored with the possibility of connecting one-on-one with each and every consumer through the magic of social media: Young people don’t want to be friends with you.

According to a new report from Forrester Research, just 6 percent of 12-17-year-olds who use the Web desire to be friends with a brand on Facebook, despite the fact that half of this demographic uses the site.

Among Web-connected 18-24-year-olds, that figure doubles—meaning that 12 percent of that demo is OK with befriending brands—though the vast majority of young adults are not, per Forrester.

Even scarier for brands: Young people don’t want brands’ friendship, and they think brands should go away. “Many brands are looking to social media as a strong digital channel to communicate with these consumers, since it’s where 12- to 17-year-olds are spending so much time,” wrote Jacqueline Anderson, Forrester’s Consumer Insights Analyst, who authored the report. “But research shows that it is important to consider more than just consumers’ propensity to use a specific channel. Almost half of 12- to 17-year-olds don’t think brands should have a presence using social tools at all.”

To arrive at these conclusions, Forrester surveyed 4,681 Americans aged 12-17 on the Web in September of last year.

So what should brands do? According to Forrester’s report, they might be better off being more reactive than proactive, and they should listen. Just 16 percent of young consumers expect brands to use social media to interact with them, and 28 percent expect those brands to listen to what they say on social sites and get back to them.

Regardless of their willingness to interact with brands, nearly three-quarters of 12-17 year olds—74 percent—use social networks to talk about products with friends and make recommendations.

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