There was an interesting story carried by many of the UK papers this morning that provided an eye opening statistic about the penetration of Social Media into the under 18 age group.

According to a survey of 25,000 under 18s across Europe carried out by European Kids Online as part of their child protection remit:

  • 1 in 3 children between 9 and 12 have a Facebook Profile
  • 43% of children in the same age group have some kind of social media profile
  • 10% of children set their profiles to public

According to the Facebook T&Cs, specifically, point 4.5:

You will not use Facebook if you are under 13.

Peer pressure causes children to want to use Facebook – once one member of a class is on the service, others will follow, to the point where all of them are using it.  In my 10 year old daughter’s class, around 75% are active on Facebook, which kind of suggests that the actual usage stats in the UK might be slightly higher in this age group.  As they are for older children:

  • 88% of children between 13-16 have a social media profile

When you think that only as of June 2010, 82.5% of British people were online, that’s a colossal figure, and if you compare it to the 43% of adults who have a social profile, it’s indicative of a big change coming up in the way in which commerce is done online.

What does it mean?

Advertising guidelines mean that you can’t specifically target children with advertising.  Rightly so, however what is clear is that in the next few years, there is likely to be a massive change in where advertising budgets are being targeted, and how people are behaving online.

Social Media is already big business – advertising revenue on Facebook in 2010 was around $1.8 billion, and that’s only going to grow, however the biggest question is by how much, and how soon.  If you think that over the next few years, the % of 18-24 year olds with Facebook accounts is going to grow from the current figure of 75% to somewhere close to 90-95%, you could expect a lot of cash to switch from other channels to social.

Opportunities for marketers

Companies will need to look in more detail at their social media strategy.  There will be a tipping point for Facebook becoming even more of a walled garden.  Pages already have substantial functionality including shops, news feeds, reviews, and much more.

Marketers will need to think about having a Facebook page optimisation strategy based on EdgeRank.  That means building out the content on your page to appeal to a wider audience, and to engage with a larger number of people across a full network of potential customers.

Data is going to be central.  The more you know about your best customers, the more accurately you can target them within Facebook, and the more you can structure your offering to appeal to them as directly as possible.

The investment focus will also need to shift.  If Facebook Pages become more important to businesses than their websites, will this mean a lower budget being required for web design, because the design elements of the page will be more standardised, or a lower budget for development because the functionality will be more app based?

As of now, if you don’t have a social media strategy, you don’t have a marketing strategy.

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