We recently hosted a panel of 8 college students from the University of Minnesota. The goal was to better understand how millennials think about social media, communications, video, VR, AR, the selfie generation, the future of work, and privacy. Here’s a summary of what we learned:
Text Is Dying
- Quote: “Texting replaced email, and photos have replaced text messages”.
- Message: Text is being used less frequently by each of our panelists. They view text as a formal way to communicate. Snap, Facebook and Instagram are the preferred communication platforms, with Facebook settings being switched to photos only. The panelists mentioned tech platforms promoting messaging within games as a way to maintain usage.
- Takeaway: Text is slowly going away, replaced by video and photos. Text is viewed more as a formal way to communicate.
- Quote: “I like Snap for news.”
- Message: Our panelists get their news from a wide variety of sources. 7 of 8 panelists are not concerned about fake news. Snap was the most popular way to aggregate news from traditional sources (3 of 8), followed by mainstream news outlets; e.g., CNN and WSJ.
- Takeaway: Professional news is still respected but not paid for by these college students.
The Future of Work
- Quote: “It’s scary. If we can’t have cashiers, truckers and fast food jobs. . . how will people live?”
- Message: College students know they are entering a workforce that will have dramatic changes over the next 30 years. They have concerns about who’s going to control everything as resources become more concentrated. The University of Minnesota offers a class titled “Size of the Future” that addresses the risk of job loss to automation. The group did consider these changes when thinking about a career, with an increased interest in a more technical education that feels more defensible. Ultimately these students believe that the negative impact of lost jobs will be partially offset by the positive impact of new industries being formed.
- Takeaway: College students understand that the workforce is changing. They envision social challenges emerging from displacement of workers with lower levels of education. But they believe a college education will ensure that their futures are safe.
It’s All About Photos
- Quote: “I wouldn’t tell you about my day in words on Facebook, but would through a photo on Snap.”
- Message: The panelists love Snap for three reasons: 1) they want to communicate through photos, 2) filters and geo tags enhances those photos, and 3) Snap is a tighter social network for most (fewer parents). As for Snap Spectacles, 8 of the 8 panelists think it’s weird to walk around with video glasses. However, they acknowledged that if enough people start using Spectacles, then they would adopt the technology. The $130 price for Spectacles is too high; just 1 of our 8 panelists said they would be interested in buying a pair at $50.
- Takeaway: The Snap story experience has won the college demo. Spectacles are a work-in-progress that will eventually go mainstream as pricing comes down.
The Selfie Generation
- Quote: “Who doesn’t like talking about themselves?”
- Message: One insightful panelist shared a belief that everyone, regardless of generation, has a desire to talk about themselves. But other panelists agreed that the self-promotion is amped up in their generation because they grew up on social media. Using social media enables this core human desire. Social is a way to share your thoughts and an open invitation to talk to other people. The panel refuted the belief that they have a difficult time communicating face to face, pointing to the fact that all ages are glued to their phones. As for work ethic, while its true they don’t prefer a traditional work environment, that does not mean that they’re lazy. This is the generation that adapts and will figure it out.
- Takeaway: This generation grew up on social media and while they like talking about themselves, there is self-policing that keep narcissism in check. If you talk too much about yourself, you get tuned out.
- Quote: “I get a new phone when my contract is up”
- Message: The panel consists mostly iPhone owners committed to the iPhone. 7 out of 8 have iPhones and of the 7, all said their next phone will be an iPhone. The Android user switched from iPhone 3 years ago because he feels Android is a more flexible platform. The typical upgrade window is when their contract is up, which tends to be every 2-2.5 years.
- Takeaway: iPhone continues to dominate the college market, and the iPhone franchise appears to be intact with repeat buyers. The AR features of the iPhone X this fall generally did not appeal to our panelists. The biggest factor in timing of upgrades is their wireless contract.
Snap & GroupMe
- Quote: “Snap puts something out and I won’t think it’s cool. Then everyone will start using it and I’ll appreciate it.”
- Message: Snap is the preferred social platform for our panelists (4 of 8), followed by Instagram (2 of 8). They like that Snap is a real time story of your day, and it’s better to see faces than text messages. Our panelists send 10-50 snaps per day. Professors take note: Your lecture has competition. We heard a recurring theme that Snap is a great distraction during a boring class. Separately, GroupMe is clearly the leader in the group messaging category.
- Takeaway: Snap has the lead and, more importantly, Snap has won the trust of the college demographic.If Snap puts something out, it will likely catch on. We believe the camera is at the center of how Snap must advance the platform with new devices and new features to stay ahead of Facebook’s improved filters. If Snap slows on its vision as a camera company, Facebook will likely catch them.
- Quote: “[Dating apps are] not used in class like I use Snap in a class.”
- Message: We were surprised that most of the panel gave Tinder and Bumble the cold shoulder. Tinder appears to have two purposes: 1) a way to meet someone for a short term relationship; 2) the group browsing option for a maximum of four people. They use Tinder as as a weekend joke with friends to “send weird messages to people that we really don’t know.” Our panelists knew of Bumble, but did not use it.
- Takeaway: Dating apps are popular as a way to kill time and are a niche market for millennials.
- Quote: “Everyone shares Netflix passwords.”
- Message: Netflix is the preferred long form video platform with YouTube and Facebook favored for short form video. Amazon Prime, HBO, and “streaming apps” represent a minority of usage. 7 of the 8 panel members said they “know someone” who shares a Netflix password. As expected, TV by appointment is a thing of the past.
- Takeaway: There seems to be a hard line between long and short form video. Netflix still owns the long form market, with Facebook video growing quickly in short form, gaining some share from YouTube. This demo gives social platforms the benefit of the doubt, so YouTube must weigh how to combat a growing Facebook and Snap video offering.
VR & AR
- Quote: “I want to do more with [VR].”
- Message: 4 of 8 have tried VR. They view VR as a novelty, with little repeat usage. 7 of 8 panelists feel that VR and AR are here to stay. Price is less of an issue because there are cheap ways to use VR today. More compelling experiences are needed to drive repeat engagement. They saw gaming space as an interesting opportunity for VR. As for AR, only 1 of the 8 panelists have given it any thought. The concept of what AR will bring is still confusing (even though they use Snapchat filters daily). All eight panelists have the perception that AR in the next iPhone is not compelling enough of a feature to get them to upgrade.
- Takeaway: VR and AR have a long way to go, but we will get there. The students see the conceptual value of VR and are struggling with what’s exciting about AR. Despite these concerns, the group has an insatiable appetite for technology. They will continue to experiment with AR even though the experiences and use cases will be limited for the next few years.
A Post-Privacy World
- Quote: “We’re fine with people taking a Snap video of us.”
- Message: Our panelists are laid back when it comes to privacy. For example, it’s OK if, at a party, a stranger takes a Snapchat video of them, just as long as it’s for Snapchat, and somehow they can tell if the person is posting on Snapchat. In terms of data security, our panelists don’t think twice about online transactions.
- Takeaway: We live in a post-privacy world. Everything that happens may be known. College students know it and the rest of us need to come to terms with it. Today everyone walks around with a camera in their pocket. In the near future it will be a wearable camera.
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