May 28, 2013, 12:13 PM

Younger consumers reveal more about themselves on social media, Pew says

That could help marketers better target web shoppers via social networks.

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Teens and tweens have become more willing to share personal information such as mobile phone numbers, e-mail addresses and geographic locations on social media, the Pew Research Center’s Internet & American Life Project says in a new report. That could help online marketers because social networks such as Facebook and Twitter enable advertisers to target consumers based on specific information they post or endorse on their sites.

Pew surveyed 802 consumers ages 12 to 18 last summer via telephone and compared their answers to responses from similar surveys it has conducted since 2006.

81% of teens and tweens said they used social networks in 2012, up from 73% in 2009 and 60% in 2007. And 67% said they visit social networks daily and 42% said they do so “several times a day.”

94% of teen and tween social network users have a Facebook profile, making it the dominant social network. Here are the percentages of teens and tweens who have other social network accounts:

Teens and tweens are increasingly willing to share a lot of information about themselves on those social networks. Here are some pieces of information they have shared, with the percentage who said they shared the information last year, and the percentage who said they shared the information when Pew conducted a similar survey in 2006:

  • Photos, 91%, 79%
  • School name, 71%, 49%
  • City where they live, 71%, 61%
  • E-mail address, 53%, 29%
  • Mobile phone number, 20%, 2%

16% of social media users last year said they have shared their physical location. Pew did not ask a similar question in 2006.

Several factors may be influencing young consumers’ willingness to share, the report says. Facebook, which features profiles that ask users to share a wide swath of information, displaced MySpace as the dominant social network among teens and tweens. And smartphones, which enable them to share a photo they just took with the push of a button, have become more common.

Despite this increased willingness to share, the respondents have taken steps to manage who can see certain information. For instance, Facebook users can have public or private accounts. If a user has a private account he can control who can find his profile in the social network’s search results and who can see his photos and posts. Users can also control who sees a particular photo or post. 60% of teens and tweens have private Facebook profiles, 25% have partially private profiles (that may mean, for instance, consumers can see a user’s profile in search results, but can’t access his photos), 14% have public profiles and 1% don’t know.

89% of teens and tweens said it’s “not difficult at all” or “not too difficult” to manage privacy controls on their Facebook profiles. Just 8% said that managing privacy controls is “somewhat difficult,” while 3% said it is “difficult” or “very difficult.”

That may help explain why few teens and tweens are concerned about online privacy. Just 9% of respondents said they are “very concerned” that advertisers and others can access the information they share. Another 31% said they are “somewhat concerned,” while 60% said they are either “not too concerned” or “not at all concerned.”

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