Given the recent coverage of a 15-year old at Morgan Stanley who wrote a report about why teens aren’t using Twitter and the numerous reactions, we thought that we’d jump on the bandwagon and get the perspective of Redfin’s youngest employee, Edward Chang, on the matter.
A couple of weeks before starting my marketing internship at Redfin, I emailed my boss-to-be Matt Goyer to ask if there was any reading I should do before I started. He suggested some books to read and blogs to follow, but he also said, “Jump on Twitter if you haven’t already.”
I had heard of Twitter before, but the only Twitter user I knew was one of my former TAs who was both old (i.e. over 25) and married. To me and my friends, Twitter was something that only 30-something-year-old, white males did when they were bored; none of us had ever used it before, and none of us really had a reason to try. Why would we Tweet when we have Facebook? Who’s really narcissistic enough to think that other people care about what he’s doing at any moment in the day?
Since working at Redfin, however, I’ve gained a newfound appreciation for Twitter. I’ve seen how unhappy customers who Tweet about Redfin can get better service, how Twitter can provide news faster than any traditional news source, how people can gain a voice through Twitter that would otherwise be suppressed. And yet, I still don’t Tweet. I’ve got an account, but I’ve never updated—and I don’t really feel the need.
From a sociological perspective, I find Twitter fascinating. While any one Tweet is relatively insignificant, taken as a whole Twitter becomes a pulse on societal trends and thoughts. I can search for all mentions of Redfin to see how people are reacting to the news that we’re finally profitable, or I can see what people are saying about the new Harry Potter movie. But I’ve got news for you: teens don’t care. Fundamentally, I don’t care about what goes on outside my bubble of friends and family. Does some random woman in New York love Twilight? I don’t care. Are people enraged that Goldman Sachs is making billions after receiving bailout money? Meh.
Herein lies the problem with Twitter: the most interesting uses of Twitter are irrelevant to teenagers. We don’t need to track a company’s image, we don’t want to build our personal brand, we don’t care to listen to random people on the internet. While Twitter’s power emerges when it amasses the voices of thousands of people, the typical teenager doesn’t have thousands of friends to follow. And without this critical mass, the Tweets lose their significance and devolve into narcissistic updates about their friends’ lives. Who needs that when we already have Facebook, especially when Facebook provides so much more information about those we care about?
Twitter is a wonderful, innovative service that has already had a meaningful impact on society and acts as a useful tool for businesses and web personalities, but it shouldn’t come as a shock that Twitter isn’t popular amongst teens. But I ask, does it need to be?