“Generation Z” or “Generation Mobile”?

This is the first in a two-part series by Ning’s Marketing intern, Nicholas O’Farrell, on teenage mobile use. Stay tuned for his Friday post about the teen mobile market and their role in the migration to mobile.

In many ways, “mobile” is a teenage concept. From its beginnings in the 1970s to the 3G and 4G networks used today by the likes of Verizon, AT&T, Vodafone, Vivo, Orange and T-Mobile, it has experienced much of the same physical and conceptual growth that teenagers undergo to become adults. In fact, mobile’s foundation was laid with the introduction of earlier mobile technology in 1991 – coincidentally the year today’s oldest teenagers, now 19, were born – and the technology has boomed ever since. Growing alongside today’s teens, mobile has become one of the defining technologies of Generation Z (people born between 1991-2010), so much so that the generation – my generation – might be more aptly named Generation Mobile.

While teen mobile use appears complex, it boils down to 3 vital characteristics. A service that incorporates all 3 of these attributes into its mobile product is more likely to have a large teen base:

  1. Accessibility: If it’s not easy and fast to use, teenagers will not use it.
  2. The most important motivation for teens to use and continue using a mobile service is ease of use. It’s one of the reasons for the massive popularity among teenagers of Facebook’s mobile app and texting – communication services like these are quick to learn, easy to use, and offer instant gratification.

  3. Popularity: If it’s not popular, there will be a limited teenage use base.
  4. It’s no surprise that the percentage of teens owning cell phones increased 15 times between 2000 and 2010 (from 5% of the teenage population owning in 2000 to 75% of teens owning in 2010. Mobile use amongst teens, like many other things in middle and high school, is driven by the notion that “if everybody else has it, you have to have it too.” No, it’s not traditional peer pressure – it’s the feeling that if you don’t have something, you’re missing out!

  5. Connectivity: If it can build on established online connections, it’s even more appealing.
  6. Having come of age during the era of social networking and online sharing, many of us now look for mobile services integrating with the many accounts we already use, such as Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Zynga. We want mobile apps that allow us to chat with our Facebook friends, our AIM buddies, and friends still tied to SMS. Mogwee takes this idea and merges its interactive social tools to create a fun and quirky multi-platform group communication mobile service. Now I can use one app to interact and connect with my friends, all from the palm of my hand — it’s this all-in-one mobile connectivity that teenagers crave.

Check the Ning Blog on Friday for the second half as Nicholas discusses the teen mobile market and teens’ role in the migration to mobile.

Post by Nicholas O’Farrell. Nicholas is a Marketing intern at Ning. Over the summer, he’s worked on a variety of projects with us, spanning from online community building for political organizations to working with Ning’s legal team and blogging for the company. A triplet and citizen of three countries, Nicholas enjoys reading, writing, traveling, skiing, and exploring new cultures and languages.

Interested in working at Ning? Learn more at join.ning.com!

About the Author:

Guest Blogger – who has written posts on Ning's Official Blog on Social Networking Sites.


  • http://www.1eyedeel.com Phil Sim

    Fully concur Nicholas, and that’s why I’m sure so many of us are sooooooooo hanging out for the mobile upgrade because the current mobile sites just don’t cut it anymore.