Label Networks’ Chart 2009-2010 by Gender: Key features and what youth culture does mostly within their social networks.

Each year, Label Networks produces a “Digital Lifestyle Youth Culture Report” focusing on various questions and consumer insights from 13-25-year-olds across North America regarding social network patterns, communication, internet patterns, online shopping, website preferences, among many other “digital” lifestyle topics.

New this year, is a series of questions we’ve added about social networks and their power of communication. As we’ve noted in the past, email as a main form of communication among this new generation is slowly fading because it’s seen as a slower, “older” form of communication. What continues to rise is the use of social networks as a form of connecting because of the ability for specific reach and speed available to update friends and family simply by updating one’s profile.

Based on our data, when asked “How many profile accounts do you have in various social networks?” 13-25-year-olds have on average 4 accounts. This indicates a relatively high volume of profiles and usage patterns for social networks within their digital lifestyle. Many also explained that they may have more than one MySpace page, or several on the same network, whereas others tend to have accounts on a variety of social networks including YouTube, Facebook, Twitter (which many people consider a social network), and one or more with a niche subculture social network site that they find an affinity for.

By gender, the results are also interesting in that females have on average 5 accounts on social networks compared with males averaging 3 accounts. What this indicates is a stronger marketplace or opportunity to reach females via various social networks than males, as well as a differing pattern of communication and social identity -i.e., females tend to use this new media format more frequently than males.

By age groups, all average 4 accounts on social networks, but among 15-17-year-olds, the average increases to 5 accounts. Generally, we see that starting at 13, young people tend to first start with a MySpace account, then the number increases at 15-17, and often moving into opening a Facebook account the older they get (and sometimes dropping MySpace).

Overall, the results quantify just how important social networks are to youth culture today. With so many accounts on various networks, this indicates a strong format for communication and creating individual identity. As many people stated, it’s faster and easier to simply update one’s profile page rather than the slower method of emailing everyone what you’re up to, or specific personal news. In addition with social networks, the youth marketplace is able to “invite” who they want to communicate with, while also feeling a part of a group of “friends” -meaning those who have like-minded interests, whether or not you actually know the person invited into your network or not.

Yet ironically, we deal with many brands that ask us about their new media and social networking strategy and what which direction they should head in. Even more shocking is the high number of top brands in youth culture industries that don’t even have a social networking strategy in place.

When working within a generation that has grown-up with technology and the internet all of their lives, such features are simply a part of their every day communication patterns, which is why those brands -large and small -with the most authentic social networking and new media strategies tend to be the most successful in reaching their desired demographic. In fashion, this ranges from Urban Outfitters and their unusual blog to their m-commerce solution. Uniqlo and H&M also have successful new media strategies, as does Volcom, Vans, and Hot Topic, especially by utilizing connections with new media, social networking, and music.

Top entertainment platforms that utilize various online and mobile platforms that work with social media also tend to work best which includes a number of video gaming brands. Many energy drinks such as Rockstar and Monster also have progressive new media strategies, but an industry that tends to be late to the game is automotive. In an industry that used to have the largest budgets for agencies to create such plans, they do not necessarily have the most effective new media and social networking game plans in place and are just now realizing the importance of this connection when it comes to reaching today’s consumers.

Taking a look at which demographics are most likely to allow corporate brand friendsters, is also quite telling. When asked “Do you let Corporate Brands (i.e., Energy Drinks, Automotive, Food, and others) become friends/followers on your social network profiles?” it’s interesting to note that 60.6% of 13-25-year-olds say Yes, they do allow such brands as friends/followers. This quantifies that reaching youth culture via social networks is an important opportunity.

B gender, it’s almost even with 60.7% of females saying yes compared with 60.5% of males. So basically, one gender is not more prone to invite corporate brands as friends over another which has meaning in-and-of itself (it’s a gender neutral issue -both invite corporations as friends).

Finally, when asked “What features do you use mostly use on social networks?” it’s interesting to note that Uploading photos is the #1 feature at 80.7%, but followed closely by Finding/adding friends at 79.5%, then Sending messages to friends at 79.4%.

By gender, the differences are also interesting in that females have higher percentages by far that Upload photos at 87.5% compared with males who use this feature at 72.8%. For males, the key feature for social networks is Sending messages to friends at 75.6%, followed by Finding/adding friends at 75.1%. Other key traits that are different in terms of usage patterns by gender are that females have higher percentages that Read other profiles, use What you are doing updates, post Bulletins, and Adding music playlists, which is often thought of as being the other way around.

Overall, by knowing what demographics are doing on social networks and how they’re utilizing key features, it can help brands create their own successful new media strategies.