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Dissecting the Teenfluencer Phenomenon :Part I

Smartphones + Diverse Interest = Teens’ Curve

At present, the demographic segment with the greatest mastery of digital media is the generation of teenagers born since 2000. This cohort—dubbed the post-Millennial generation—comprises a large number of influencers who command a strong degree of persuasion on the Internet. By analyzing these influencers, who are significant when it comes to marketing, we can create a picture of our current information environment.
To this end, Dentsu has launched a series of articles focusing on female and male high school students who have a strong influence—a group the Dentsu Gal Labo has named teenfluencers (a portmanteau of teenage influencer).
The series covers a wide range of topics related to this group, from their attributes and behavior to their historical background. In this installment, we look at the historical background and media landscape changes that have led to the teenfluencers.

Will Post-millennials Alter the Media Landscape?

The cohort that has reached adulthood since 2000 is referred to as the Millennial Generation. Although the term initially was popularized abroad, it is gaining recognition in Japan. That said, the currently noteworthy group comprises the post-Millennials, born in 2000 or after and, in particular, the initial cohort of this demographic segment who are the high school students of today.
While connecting with their peers via social media, they communicate and share information on their day-to-day lifestyle. Rather than gathering on the street, they tend to connect online to share information.
In other words, they themselves are the information media, and these trend-setting male and female youths may also be seen as a group who, in future, will seize the media initiative.

Emergence of the Teens’ Curve

The post-Millennial generation, whose members also are referred to as digital natives, have a distinct way of receiving information. Rather than mass consumption of information, they pick and choose what appeals to them personally.
Their attention as fans is directed not only to celebrities, but also to YouTubers and Instagrammers who provide information about things that interest them. They spend considerable time taking in such information and their enthusiasm is extremely strong. They have a spirit of inquiry and personally prefer niche items and highly segmented information.
This is the result of the information structure that has resulted from the Internet. Through each individual who adopts information-related behavior adapted to his or her own interests, the interests of the population as a whole become distributed in a pattern that indicates polarization.
There is a gulf between the winners, who receive a particularly large amount of attention, and the rest, who only receive a sparse amount of attention.
In his book The Long Tail: Why the Future of Business is Selling Less of More (2006), Chris Anderson extrapolates this principle based on ecommerce site sales data, while explaining the importance of capturing business opportunities by building up responses to satisfy the diverse needs of the consumers who stretch out along the long tail as the rest.
A decade has passed since the long tail became much discussed. Among teens—the smartphone natives—the trend toward fragmentation of interests continues to accelerate.
Thus we have focused on the things and people that interest teenagers and may be expressed using a distribution curve, which summarizes how much attention a particular topic will generate. We will call this the Teens’ Curve (see chart below, bearing in mind that this sketch is only at the conceptual stage).

Smartphones + Diverse Interest = Teens’ Curve

The Y axis represents the degree of attention generated or degree of topicality. The higher on the axis, the stronger the level of attention generated.
On the X axis, topics relating to a wide variety of things and people are lined up and stretch far out to the right.
The steepness of the curve attests to the dominance of certain topics.
Since, among all age demographics, teenfluencers exhibit the strongest tendencies and the curve to the right is very long (signifying the existence of a highly diverse range of topics of interest), each piece of information communicated by these teenagers—who freely make use of YouTube, Instagram, LINE LIVE, and other media—is fragmented.
Even so, the sum total exerts a major impact on the market. Thus it would be fair to say that identifying the structure of this teens’ curve—which simultaneously embodies diversification and polarization—will be very important for marketing.
The movie Your Name, which was released last year, was the top grossing film at the Japanese box office for 2016. One of the factors driving the phenomenal success of the movie—which is at the top of the teens’ popularity curve—is the large number of times information about it has been shared via social media.
As a result of the penetration it achieved via the Internet, we can see that, simultaneous with the diversification of consumer interests, a very strong concentration of attention and high levels of topicality are being generated.

Information Disseminated across the Population

The trends illustrated by the teens’ curve are generated by ordinary consumers sharing recommendations while communicating information via social media and other means.
Consumers are information originators, who share recommendations with each other and build their personal brands by disseminating information. On a daily basis, they are on the lookout for information that would be worth sharing. Here we use the word “share” in a broad sense, to denote the online and offline passing along of information, and word-of-mouth.
Within such situations, a large number of influencers emerge who are particularly significant sources of information. As communities form around such influencers, an increasing number of popular trends emerge from these small units.
In recent years, the digital environment—particularly social media—has achieved greater depth, and the topics seen by ordinary consumers increased diversity.
As diversity becomes more visible, so awareness grows among the general population, leading to further diversification. And, in order not to be swept away by a flood of diverging information, people depend on the influencers—who act as guides through the information deluge.

Teenfluencers Driving Innovation

The quickest way to get a broad view of the modern media landscape probably is to gain an understanding of teenfluencers.
This series of articles will mine the knowledge derived from studying the phenomenon of the teenfluencer: the product of the age of social media-based interaction and interconnection.
We will take an in-depth look at teenfluencers who affect influence, as well as those who are affected by influences, and who can be the initiators of new trends.
We will share with readers insights into the modern information environment, and offer knowledge that can be utilized in the formulation of communication, marketing, and promotion strategies.
This article is an introduction to the topic, and much of the content is theoretical. However, beginning with the next installment, we will present a tangible picture of the mindsets and lifestyles of teenfluencers through interviews and on-site reporting. We hope you will find the series interesting.

Smartphones + Diverse Interest = Teens’ Curve

Akira Amano

Associate Chief Researcher
Media Business Innovation Department
Dentsu Inc.