The upshot of “teens don’t use twitter”

Update 8/28 at 11:45am:  I’ve just been given some stats by UNC professor Dr. Joe Bob Hester (@jbhester) that entirely undermines the argument that teens and college students aren’t on twitter.  Very timely, as the stats were just posted today!   So, read on if you’d like.  But, these statistics do shade the entire conversation.

It would be most interesting to see these stats broken down by age group.  Perhaps it’s not that Twitter account holders are older (clearly they’re not), but perhaps it’s that those who are most active in the space are older?

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I keep hearing comments and reading anecdotes and studies about how teens don’t use Twitter.  And often these arguments are used in a way that suggests that Twitter’s value is bound up in its use by teens.  But, from where I sit, it doesn’t trouble me that teens and college students are not currently using Twitter.  Whether or not they are currently using Twitter is only my concern in as much as it means I need to do more among my own population of students to help them get there.

It doesn’t matter to me if a college student doesn’t want to connect with his or her friends on Twitter.  I hear them all the time — that’s what Facebook is for.  And they’re totally correct in that regard.  But, the value for the college student is exactly in interacting with people that you don’t yet know, and if those folks happen to be a little older and already into their profession, then that’s even BETTER for them.  That’s the missing link for most of the students I work with.

For some reason, those fretting and debating that it’s mostly 30- and 40-somethings on Twitter don’t seem to recognize this.  I hypothesize that it’s because many of them see these teens not as students to educate, but rather as a market to capitalize upon.

But, my goal is to help college students connect with professionals in their fields of choice.  So, my challenge is to help students find the value on Twitter, and it’s clear to me that right now many are missing out.  I did a training earlier in the week for our “career peers” on personal branding and social media.  When Twitter was brought up, several sighed in exasperation.  But, it’s because they only view Twitter as an overblown Facebook status update.  When they’re shown how it really can work, the light bulb turns on.

So, those of you working with students, don’t be concerned if you read that they aren’t on Twitter yet.  For their own professional development it can be useful if they are, and your challenge is to help them understand why and how.

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