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Strategy and DECODE sat down with a group of teens to get their thoughts about life online – from love/hate relationships with Facebook to how they feel about brands infiltrating the space.

Strategy and DECODE sat down with a group of teens in DECODE’s Toronto office to get their thoughts on life online – from love/hate relationships with Facebook and Twitter to how they feel about outside forces (brands, parents) infiltrating the space. Here’s what they had to say…

The panel: Jake, 17; Jack, 17; Micah, 16; Nicole, 18; Tabitha, 18

How many times a day do you check Facebook?
Nicole: Too often.
Tabitha: On weekends I’ll check it more. It’s not my first priority during the week.
Jack: It’s a little more interactive than [checking]. I come home after school, I’ll look at it then, but I couldn’t tell you how much time, it’s just sort of there. I’m not actively using it but it’s in the background. I might check in every 15 minutes.
Micah: I’m usually on and off in 30 seconds because I have Facebook Mobile on my iPhone and on my mail it also comes up in Facebook notifications.

How many friends do you have?
Tabitha and Jack: Around 600.
Nicole: Around 400, more people than I know.
Micah: Around 450, I know more than 85%. Not personally, but I went to their school, I know who they are.
Jake: 630 or 640.

How many would you say you know on a more personal level, that you talk to in your regular life?
Jake: 25%.
Nicole: Maybe less. The majority of the people I have on Facebook, maybe I was acquainted with them in the past or I went to high school or elementary school with them, but the majority I don’t speak to anymore. Maybe 15% I have personal relationships with.
Jack: I’d say 40 or 50 friends that I actually interact with. The number that I’d actually call up or write on my wall is pretty small.
Tabitha: My closest friends I don’t talk to online at all. Unless it’s sharing a link on their wall or something, but other than that I don’t.

Are your parents on Facebook and if so, are you friends with them?
Tabitha: My dad and stepmom are and I’m friends with them, but I don’t really care cause I’m pretty upfront with my parents.
Nicole: I’ve got three uncles on Facebook, but they don’t tell my parents anything.
Micah: I’d say [my brother and I] have 10 or 15 family members.
Jack: My mom is on, but she hasn’t figured out the adding friends thing. She asked me to add her and I told her I couldn’t.

Do you “like” any brands on Facebook, and if so what are they?
Nicole: Only TV shows like Supernatural, Dr. Who, Glee.

Any of you like any consumer brands?
Jack: I play golf so I like Nike Golf and Titleist because they have free stuff to give away on the page and I figured it would be cool if I could win a set of golf clubs.

So what motivated you to like them? Was it winning free stuff or to get info?
Jack: I never really liked things, I didn’t like the way it looked and didn’t feel it necessary. I find it geeky when people fill up their page with things they like.
Tabitha: I agree. I know people who have way more likes than they do friends, they spend way too much time on Facebook.
Jack: I might spend that much time, but I don’t want everybody knowing that. It’s just free stuff.

Is it a space that you think it’s okay for brands to be?
Everyone: Yeah.
Jake: You see it come up in advertising now, where it’s not just go to the website, it’s check us out on Twitter, go to our Facebook. But I think Facebook is the least legit, because the website’s the website and Twitter is constantly updating…Facebook is fine but it’s more just falling into the category of “LOL if you like this picture,” those kinds of things.
Tabitha: Your attention is still brought to the product and it’s in your mind.
Jack: Advertising and Facebook, it’s not really the purpose of it, but it’s really effective because I know the ads on the little sidebar are all geared towards me. That’s effective because when I’m watching an ad on TV, I don’t really bother, but I have clicked on [Facebook] ads before. It kind of freaks me out that they have pages for products – it just feels like I’m becoming friends with a product. I don’t think that’s what Facebook is about, but it works because I look at them and it draws my attention.

Are you more likely to click on a banner ad than you are to “like” a brand on Facebook?
Jack: Yeah, because I feel like I’m always getting scammed when I like stuff because sometimes you click on things and it says you have to like it to see the page. That makes me mad. I would click on them and check out products if it’s something interesting to me.

What if you could interact with them more, like you could ask them questions, would that encourage you to like them more?
Tabitha: A lot of companies get so many likes that they don’t have the time, or won’t give you the time, to answer your questions. If they did, there would be 500,000 people writing on that wall.
Nicole: But if it’s a smaller company, if they did answer that would give me more of a reason to like them on Facebook.

Let’s say I run my own brand and it wants to talk to teenagers, what would you do differently? How would I use Facebook?
Jack: I think a discount. I’m not interested in special deals or products or you sending me information because most of the time I’ll just ignore it, but if I look on your page and I see that I get 10% off for liking you, I wouldn’t be opposed to that.
Tabitha: And if you give a good description of what your company is.
Jake: It’s external influences that will bring you to Facebook, like I wouldn’t say it’s a good idea to start at Facebook as your main source of advertisement, you want to get the ads going on TV, on posters and even a sidebar on Facebook.

Are any of you on Twitter?
Nicole: Yes.
Jack: I have one, I’ve never done a tweet.
Jake: I follow people on Twitter and I’ll check it out but I’ve never made a tweet.

Do you follow any brands?
Nicole: Not really, mostly friends and celebrities.
Jake: Mostly just Sports Illustrated and other magazines and people.

Those that aren’t on it, why not?
Tabitha: I have no use for it. Besides, Facebook just consumes too much time in my day.
Micah: I don’t think I’d be able to identify what a Twitter page is if it didn’t say Twitter at the top. I don’t even know what you do on it.
Jack: I don’t really get it…It seems sort of redundant, like Facebook but on a platform that’s not what people are looking for…there’s just not enough people on it to make it worth my while. If all my friends had Twitter and that’s what they were using, I’d go on for sure, but it seems like sending a personal message and stuff like that – you can do all that on Facebook. I’m just not interested in what Justin Bieber is doing.
Nicole: I would rather go on Twitter than Facebook, to tell you the truth. Twitter is less of a hassle and you’re not constantly getting emails for updates [on Facebook]. I think it’s much more relaxed…I personally hate Facebook. I find it a social necessity, but it drives me insane and I wish I didn’t have it.

Why is it a necessity?
Nicole: For my generation especially, it’s just with planning events and communicating with certain people, it’s easy and everybody has Facebook now.
Jack: I agree. How many people really love Facebook? I think if you ask people, a lot are not so keen on it. People don’t ask for your phone number anymore, they ask to add you on Facebook.
Jake: The word “friend” has taken a turn.

Have you ever participated in a contest online?
Jake: Yes, for Pokémon cards.
Nicole: For Harry Potter merchandise. You enter your email and you can win.

How about a contest where you had to do more than just enter your name, etc.?
Jack: I’ve done sports pools. Like Sportsnet and CBC ran some.

Have you ever been influenced by a brand online to do something or buy something?
Jake: I’m sure subconsciously.
Jack: I saw an ad online and I ended up buying a golf club from the company because I went to their website. But I went to the retail location.
Tabitha: Brands will put out a new product or line of something and you can go online to check it out.
Nicole: I’ll get ads for different books and next time I’m in Indigo, I’m more likely to check it out.

What makes you trust a company online?
Tabitha: I don’t really trust any company online…If it’s a chain store then it’s more trustworthy.
Jack: Having a retail location is important. Being offline and having pictures of that retail location. And also just being big enough. Like eBay, I don’t have a problem trusting it because there are millions of people and I don’t feel like millions of people are getting scammed.

What are the worst things brands can do in terms of reaching out to you in social media?
Nicole: No constant notifications.
Jack: Nothing on my wall. Just respect for space. Liking a brand on Facebook doesn’t make them my friend or give them any reason to personally contact me. I find if they’re too pushy–
Tabitha: They’ll lose your business.
Jack: I don’t need any personal contact. I’m fine with ads on my sidebar, but once I get notifications or inboxes I’ll just remove it.
Jake: We need to make the first move. [We have to] like them, they don’t like us.

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