Social Media Advertising for Teenagers (Ages 13 - 18)

Brent Barnhart

April 25, 2019

Brent Barnhart

April 25, 2019

Pop quiz: do teenagers factor into your current social strategy?

If not, perhaps they should.

Advertising for teenagers might be the last thing on your mind, but they’re a demographic that’s proven to be incredibly valuable for brands.

How so?

For starters, they’re cultural consumers. If you want you what to know what’s happening in terms of social trends or pop culture, look no further than Gen Z.

And believe it or not, teenagers have a ton of buying power that often goes overlooked.  A 2019 survey from Piper Jaffray notes that the average U.S. teen claims to spend the equivalent $3,500+ AUD annually.

Oh, and teens represent a demographic that’s totally glued to social media. In fact, Australian teens spend a staggering 1,200 hours per year browsing the various social channels (that adds up to nearly one day per week).

The challenge, though? Marketing to teenagers is apples and oranges versus millennials or boomers.

That’s why we put together this quick guide on social media advertising for teenagers including popular platforms, tactics and considerations for tapping into this ever-so-valuable demographic.


The Ethics of Social Media Advertising for Teenagers

Let’s start by addressing the ethics of advertising for teenagers on social media.

Some businesses might feel awkward about doing so and hey, we totally get it.

But look at it this way: teens are a demographic that has historically been targeted by advertisers.

TV commercials. Magazine ads. Radio contests.

From the dawn of broadcast media to the MTV generation and beyond, social media represents the modern landscape for advertisers to reach a younger crowd.

And just because you decide to advertise for teenagers on social media doesn’t mean you have to do anything underhanded.

As a rule of thumb, stay within the best practices of advertising by avoiding any ad campaigns that are not age-appropriate.

No gambling. No alcohol. Nothing explicit. Anything that toes the line of controversy could not only get you kicked off a platform but also result in a full-blown social media crisis.

Keep in mind that 40% of Australian teens have worked a casual or part-time job by the time they’re 15. Translation? It’s not as if you’re preying on their parents’ pocketbooks: teens today are surprisingly savvy customers and know exactly what they want from brands.


Where to Advertise to Teens on Social Media

So, where are the kids hangin’ out these days on social media?

Good question! Conventional wisdom tells us that Gen Z is moving away from Facebook in lieu of more visual-based platforms.

Perhaps surprising to some, YouTube is the number one platform among teenagers in terms of usage and engagement. Consumers at large are consuming video like never before and teens are no different. YouTube allows users to sign up as early as 13 and likewise can serve ads to those same users.

In terms of more traditional social sites, Instagram is king. With 72% of teenagers on Instagram, the platform and its ads are friendly to anyone 13 or older.

And although some brands may have soured on Snapchat, the ephemeral social network is still a hit among teens. Like YouTube and Instagram, the platform welcomes users 13+ and their ad platform does the same.

2. tiktok

As a side note, demographic data for social networks can be somewhat skewed if teens don’t sign up to a social platform with their actual age.


How to Advertise to Teenagers on Social Media

As noted, brands need to tread carefully when it comes to advertising to teenagers.

Approaching with the wrong marketing messages can cause your brand to come off as out-of-touch or tone-deaf.

3. fellow kidsAs always, it pays to do your homework and research what teen customers are talking about now. Considering how quickly trends and memes evolve, expect to switch up your campaigns and messaging often.

The good news? There’s more than likely some overlap between your teen audience and millennials, meaning that teens aren’t total aliens when it comes to your marketing tactics. Below is a breakdown of tips for appealing to younger consumers.


Prioritise Influencers Over Traditional Ads

Simply put, Gen Z prefers personal recommendations and word-of-mouth to traditional ads and deals.

That’s not to say that teens are immune to advertising. Instead, brands just need to avoid hitting their teen audience over the head with straight-up sales pitches.

Arguably one of the best ways to do so is through influencer marketing. It’s no secret that younger consumers trust influencers of all shapes and sizes, which is exactly why so many teenage influencers dominate YouTube, Instagram and Snapchat alike.

Teens don’t view influencer-based posts as ads, although such posts ultimately achieve the goal by showing off products to potential buyers.

4. jayjays influencer

Don’t assume that you need to make any massive influencer investments to click with teens, either. Even massive brands like Supre employ micro-influencers to engage their audiences. Such relationships represent cost-effective, scalable campaigns that can help you advertise to teenagers.

5. Supre micoinfluncer


Engage ‘em with Ephemeral Content

Remember what we said earlier about trends moving quickly?

Whether it’s your brand or influencer accounts, time-sensitive Snapchat posts and Instagram Stories are must-see content for young audiences. From behind-the-scenes content to actual ads, Stories are a fantastic way to sort of “skip the line” in users’ feeds and put your brand front and centre.

Tapping into your younger audience’s FOMO, experimenting with Stories and Stories-based ads is a smart move.

6. Instastory


Catch Their Eyes with Video

Everyone’s a binge-watcher these days and teens are no exception. Eye-catching and friendly to serial scrollers, video content is a winner with teenagers for a reason. Borrowing from the principles of classic commercials, employing quick-paced videos with high energy and rhythm can help you win over the Gen Z crowd.

7. fb video

Consider again how much time teens are spending on YouTube, too. Influencer videos directed for teens are totally fair game, especially if you don’t currently have much of a YouTube presence for your brand account.


Make Authenticity and Humour Cornerstones of Your Messaging

There’s been a shift over the past few years of brands becoming more conversational with customers.

9. the iconic

Teenagers are receptive to authentic marketing messages. This means adopting a personable tone and publishing content that feels like it was captured “in the wild.”

10. luna park

Of course, humour and meme-related content is always a safe bet for teens. Just make sure you aren’t making dated references that could make your brand seem out-of-step.

11. hello molly meme


Keep an Open Mind to New Advertising Channels

Finally, keep in mind that just social media advertising for teenagers means exploring new channels.

And just because a network isn’t relevant to you now doesn’t mean it’s irrelevant to your audience.


Look at emerging platforms such as IGTV as a prime example.

Or heck, consider how you’re much more likely to reach teens via ads in Stories or Messenger versus email.

The takeaway here is that teenagers might be spending time beyond your “tried and tested” marketing channels. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, either. In fact, following a teenage audience can help you keep an ear to the ground on emerging ad channels where your competitors might not be active yet.

And with that, we wrap up our guide to social media advertising for teenagers!


How Are You Reaching Teenagers on Social Media?

No matter how you slice it, teenagers are a crucial audience for brands to reach.

Not only do they represent a demographic of surprisingly big spenders, but also an audience that’s unmatched in terms of social media engagement.

That said, reaching them requires a specific strategy centred around time-sensitive, authentic content. Hopefully, the tips above provided some much-needed motivation and inspiration to help your business reach a younger audience in the future.


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