Teens, Millennials, & Social Platforms: What Features Matter Most?

Friends Hanging Out

A few weeks ago, my colleagues and I got onto the subject of feature prioritization and how one feature can make all the difference in which apps you choose to use or not. And since Millennials are such an intriguing group to study, we began to wonder how they consume social media based on occasions and within that, how features play a role in their social app usage.

As much as people like to poke fun at Millennials and their overall attitudes about work and life in general, there’s no denying their impact on businesses based on spending power alone. For the businesses trying to market to these younger consumers, it’s imperative to understand how they’re interacting with and consuming media. And since teens will eventually be part of that same group of trendsetters and innovators with significant buying power, we thought we’d talk to both groups. After all, we love a good comparison when it comes to data analysis and trends.

The Research

We turned to our online Instant Research Groups to understand the features these young consumers care about the most as well as their overall habits while engaged with social apps and platforms. We used the following objectives to provide guidance throughout the qualitative research:

  1. Identify most important features overall for social app usage; understand how features relate to occasions of use.
  2. Understand what teens and Millennials are doing while on the different social apps and platforms; identify any behavioral trends for each type of app.
  3. Uncover pain points for usage (functionality, searching, interacting, etc.) to see what could be improved to increase use.
  4. Gauge overall attitudes and feelings toward each type of social app/platform through image uploads or respondent-provided descriptions.

The Results

Connectivity and Information Consumption Are Primary Drivers for Social Media Use

Both Millennials and teens use social media to communicate with friends and family, follow celebrities and other influencers, read the news, and feel connected with the outside world. Much of social media use occurs during downtime or in between other activities. Social media use also occurs when these young consumers are bored, procrastinating, or taking breaks.

IRG Respondent

When it comes to social media, a thumbs up really describes it. I love getting to see all the cool things my friends do and what’s happening around the world. It allows me to be connected to lots of different things which is fantastic.

14, Male, New Jersey
Millennials and Teens Have Unique Use Cases for Different Social Media Platforms, but Millennials Are More Likely to Use Facebook as a Go-To Network

Millennials have been using Facebook longer and have large groups of friends and family on Facebook. Meanwhile, teens have friends on multiple platforms and seek to avoid parents on Facebook. Both groups felt Twitter was good for staying up to date on cutting-edge news and trends, while Instagram and Pinterest were seen as more creative apps. Pinterest is also noteworthy for its anonymity and organizational tools.

IRG Respondent

I usually wake up around 5:30 in the morning…that’s my ‘me’ time until it’s time to wake up the kids to start their day at 6am. So I usually grab a cup of coffee and check out Facebook and see what’s going on.

31, Female, Arkansas
Ease of Use, Privacy, and Sharing Are Essential Features for Social Media Platforms

Millennials we spoke to said they want simple, easy-to-use apps that they don’t have to spend time learning, while teens want quick, fun apps they can use during in-between moments throughout the day. Easy sharing and privacy settings are key, as connectivity is a major use case for social media.

5 Ways to Increase and Maintain Engagement

So, what can marketers do to increase and maintain engagement via social apps?

1. Highlight ease of use and ease of understanding.

Users want to know they’ll be able to quickly and easily begin using and interacting with an app after it’s downloaded. Further, creating intuitive and easy-to-understand privacy settings can make a significant impact on user adoption and satisfaction since privacy is essential when sharing online.

2. Know your niche audiences, use cases, and competitive advantages.

For example, while many Millennials use Pinterest for wedding planning, some teens use the organizational power of Pinterest boards to manage schoolwork. Marketing these novel types of use cases could potentially help spur user adoption among younger audiences or inspire new features.

3. Design apps for small bursts of activity.

Younger consumers want content experiences to be conducive to multi-tasking while still allowing for more in-depth content consumption when the right occasions arise.

4. Highlight features that allow users to constantly communicate with family members and view shared content such as news articles or recipes.

Users have replaced other media and communication tools, from newspapers to telephones, with social media because of the convenience and personalization it offers.

Platform Differentiation Based on Image Uploads and Descriptions

For differentiation purposes, we built some simple and clean platform profiles to really pull out the differences between the social apps discussed over the course of this research. Based on respondent quotes, here is an example:


The teens and Millennials we spoke to were eager to share their opinions on the topic of social media and the role it plays in their overall media consumption and everyday lives. For the whole story, including detailed findings, additional implications, differences between the groups, pain points for each platform, and more colorful respondent quotes, take a look at our full report.

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