How teenage girls communicate – from the Sisterhood

Great initiative by my old colleagues at Euro RSCG PR Worldwide in NYC, they’ve created the Sisterhood – a forum for teen girls and marketers to exchange insights about what teen girls really want.

 have to say I agree with pretty much everything in the below ‘Manifesto’ on how teen girls communicate. Seems to be the same pretty much in all Western markets, highly intimate, interpersonal connections built around trust and identity creation. I like the insight that teens are using instant messenger as a ‘confidence facade’  – reminds me of a post i wrote about the mobile phone playing the role as a ‘social shield’. Well done Marian, Matt and Karina !

Here’s the Sisterhood manifesto on how teen girls communicate:

You know that image of teenage girls on the Internet 24/7, tweeting, instant messaging and Facebooking their way through every waking moment? Forget it. The average teen is online just 23 minutes a day. And the “so me” notion of social media, the one that says users want to broadcast their lives to the world? Lose that one, too. Teenage girls want to stay in constant contact with friends, but usually just one at a time. They’re way more likely to text or call a confidant than to post an announcement to everyone they know. Communication is one-to-one, and the watchword is intimacy.

Call it The Sisterhood. Important things get said only to important people. That’s not to say teen communication is exclusionary. On the contrary, being part of a group of two or three sisters (biological or otherwise) lets everyone have her say and be heard. Individual identity is not lost, as it in larger groups; it’s amped up.

Teenage girls have been shaped by social media. They’ve never experienced communication in an Internet-less world. Self-taught master-users of social technology, they know how to seamlessly weave social media into their lives. They include what they want and ignore or block what they don’t. When they go online, they know what they’re looking for—friendship, and a space to conduct their social relationships.

Girls can pack an awful lot of social interaction into 23 minutes a day. They surf the Web and use social media with laser-like focus, searching instead of browsing, and actively communicating rather than passively consuming.

How Styles Get Communicated Person-to-Person

Think of teenage girls as birds of prey, soaring high above the field and swooping in to grab exactly what they want, rather than swamp birds that wade through the marsh to find something acceptable. They don’t swarm around every fad or shop indiscriminately.

Longer on time than on money, they set their eyes on the prize and pounce when the moment is right—when they find an item on sale. But their bargain-hunting is eagle-eyed: They won’t compromise on brand, and they can justify paying a high price for a good brand they find at a discount. Plus, they enjoy the thrill of the chase.

When she finds a deal, a teen girl wants to share it—but she’s more interested in tipping off a close friend or two than in broadcasting the information. Just a small fraction use Facebook or instant messaging to spread the news; most text or call a few members of their Sisterhood.

Likewise, girls spend more when they shop in pairs, with a best friend or sister, than in flocks of three or more. It’s a matter of trust: Getting an honest opinion is key. As with communicating, shopping is best done in private, where the Sisterhood can influence decisions.

So what is it that they’re deciding to buy? The unique.

Girls live in the creative space of social media: They have their own phones, their own MySpace and Facebook pages; they’ve customized their walls and chosen the intimate groups of friends who get to share their secrets. Everything has their personal stamp. So why would they want the same trendy clothes as everyone else?

They wouldn’t. Most girls say maintaining a unique personal style is important, about twice as many as those who want to adopt the same looks as their friends. Almost half are influenced by celebrities, but just a quarter want to follow the “cool” girls at school. The ability to modify and personalize fashion is attractive—all the better if it’s as part of a team, with a best friend or sister.

Teenage girls inhabit a world where they are empowered by a sense of possession. They have control over media and an unprecedented ability to acquire; they can make so many things their own. It’s no longer about the family landline but their personal cell phone, Facebook page, and WiFi-enabled iPod. They resent the intrusion of advertising into their curated worlds and are quick to share their bad experiences with brands—and here intimacy can go out the window, as most say bad news is worth telling “lots of people.”

As the vanguard of social media users, teen girls demonstrate the centrality of marketing-as-discussion. Girls want to talk about the brands that are important to them—and they want to talk with the brand as they talk about the brand among themselves. But this three-way conversation, or trialogue, happens on a small scale, one that suits their tendency to share and discuss with members of an intimate circle. The inner circle is the inner sanctum.

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