Do Teenagers Review? - February 14, 2020

Year In Review - December 30, 2019

Why Teenagers Matter - October 30, 2019

The 'Target' Target Market - September 18, 2019

Keeping WTKS 'Safe' - September 9, 2019

The Story Behind WTKS - August 14, 2019

Do Teenagers Review - February 14, 2020

Something I have often been asked about the What The Kids Say app, which has been designed for teenagers to rate and review places they have visited, is "Do kids really want to do reviews?" Not long after, this is often followed by the comment (masquerading as a question) "Do they look at them?"

If a review is considered to be information shared by an individual, used to assist others with making future decisions - usually on a platform specifically for that purpose, such as TripAdvisor or Zomato - the answer is probably "no". Firstly, teenagers and young people probably don't even know what these platforms are, let alone use them! And why would they? Although they have evolved over time, they remain predominantly text based and if there is one thing young people don't want to do these days, it's read!

While the vast majority of people using traditional review platforms are adults who 'logon' when they have something meaningful to say - or are looking to discover information about somewhere or something specific - teenagers and kids are comparatively always online. Youtube, Instagram, Snapchat, TikTok. They are sharing snippets (and sometimes much more) of their lives on and through these platforms. What they are doing. Where they are. Who they are with. How they feel.

Almost unintentionally and without even knowing it, young people are posting reviews all the time. The fire emoji accompanying that photo posted to Instagram of the waffles an individual had for breakfast, is enough to send the message that said waffles are 'lit', or good, for those born before the turn of the century. They are presenting an assessment or appraisal of the waffles. It may be an informal one, but that's what it is.

On numerous occasions my daughters have suggested we visit at restaurant or cafe I have never heard of, based on a post they had seen on social media. The individual sharing that picture may not have intended that it be used for that purpose, but it certainly had the impact of influencing the behaviour of others. And that's what a review is used for, right? Assisting others to make an informed decision, based on a previous experience or experiences.

When a gamer watches footage of someone else playing a video game and can see the joy and satisfaction the player is getting from his activity, a connection is made between the specific game being played and the emotion it elicits. Without saying it, the player is sending a positive message about what they are doing, effectively submitting a positive review.

Teenagers may not use traditional review platforms like us older folk, but that doesn't mean they don't want to share their opinions or that they aren't influenced by others when it comes to decision making. On the contrary, the explosion of influencer marketing over the past few years suggests they are looking to others in order to discover what they really want.


Year In Review - December 30, 2019

2019 was a big year for What The Kids Say. In addition to finally launching our iOS app after a false start and plenty of obstacles, there were several other achievements we can look back on with pride.

Someone once told me things wouldn't really get started until the app was live in the App Store and that couldn't have been more true. It's no good having a great product if nobody knows about it! There were several plans in place regarding the strategy to raise awareness of WTKS, some which were effective and others which didn't get the desired results (although this could equally be as much about my execution as it is about them just not working).

The strategy from the start has always been to target a geographical area and work out from that central area, with the the platform being of greater value to users as the number of relevant ratings and reviews to them increases. When we have 'conquered' one area, move on to the next one.

What The Kids Say received some good exposure in local press, featuring in the Redland City Bulletin and on their Facebook page. I was privileged to have the opportunity to pitch at a couple of different events in the Redlands, winning the Startup Redlands pitch night in August and raising awareness of who we are. This monthly event has proven to be a great networking tool, with connections made subsequently resulting in further opportunities to share at local schools and present the app to our target market.

Establishing connections with local schools - who literally have our target audience captive for 6 hours a day! - proved somewhat more difficult. I have discovered just how bureaucratic the education system is, with schools certainly not the open door I was hoping. I probably could have worked harder on this angle, and will likely need to in order to develop more traction within the Redlands.

One of the other big wins we had in 2019 was incorporating our first partner offers into the app! As a means of incentivising users to be more engaged with our platform, we are displaying offers and special deals which can be redeemed by presenting the offer on your phone screen to a member of staff. We were able to build partnerships with several leading brands - including Subway, The Yiros Shop and Cleveland institution Pierres Cafe - and were excited by this development, but uptake has been disappointing to so far.

So thats a brief recap of what happened with WTKS in 2019. 2020 will see much of the same, in terms of a focus on raising awareness of the platform, although we need to see more rapid growth, and generating revenue will be another priority.


Why Teenagers Matter - October 30, 2019

Teenagers are having increased influence on household purchase decisions, so it is easy to see why retailers and business owners need to pay attention to what they are saying, now more than ever. And with the 2016 Census revealing there are almost 1.7 million Australians between the ages of 13 and 18, they represent a demographic which can no longer be taken for granted.

In 2016, more than 90% of Australians aged 14-17 owned a smartphone, making their access to information greater than it has ever been. Through What The Kids Say, 'the kids' are provided not only with a platform to express their own thoughts on the places they have been, they also have an important resource for them to discover what their peers have to say.

A 2015 YouGov study into the influence of teens on household purchase decisions indicated that 'Which fast-food restaurants to go to' (95%) and 'Which sit-down restaurant to go to' (88%) were two of the biggest areas which children aged 12-17 have a say in. Couple that with the fact Australians spend $45 billion per year - or $100 per household per week - on eating out, and it is easy to see why hitting the mark with the younger generation is so important.

The research conducted by YouGov also showed the influence teens have when it comes to making a choice about the 'Types of out-of-home entertainment / sports / recreation to attend or do' (93%) and 'Where to go on vacations that include your child(ren)', with teens having input into the final purchase decision on this matter 82% of the time.

Given the value parents place on their teen children when it comes to making purchase decisions in the hospitality and entertainment industries, making a good impression and positioning yourself to do so, cannot be underestimated. As the industry leader in giving teenagers a voice, What The Kids Say is the most important place for your brand to be when it comes to advertising to this demographic.


The 'Target' Target Market - September 18, 2019

Despite having built a rating and review platform aimed at teenagers, 'What The Kids Say' undoubtedly has a target market within our target market. At least initially. Rather than focusing our marketing and promotional efforts at teenagers who have already been using social media for a long time, our intention is to get WTKS ingrained in the psyche of young people who are establishing their social media and app usage habits.

Changing someone's behaviour is always much harder than teaching a new behaviour. For that reason, our growth strategy is primarily aimed at 12-14 year olds, rather than older teenagers. We know that we can't compete with the likes of Snapchat and Instagram, so we won't try to! Of course these users are extremely important to us, but it makes sense that while we are growing we focus most of our energy on fighting on a level playing field.

It is unlikely that a 17year with a habit of using Snapchat for three hours a day, in addition to spending two hours on Instagram will abandon those platforms for ours. Getting users to become regular users of 'What The Kids Say' - posting reviews and ratings, using our app to discover top rated places nearby and where they are going etc - will be much easier before they are such committed and loyal users Snapchat, Instagram, TikTok etc. I am under no illusions we can replace those platforms, but surely we can divert users attention from them somewhat!

The research we conducted when validating the concept of WTKS strongly suggested the majority of teenagers use the social media platforms they use for one reason: because their friends are on there. We have the best chance of being successful with our app if we can win over those who are in the best position to win over other potential users for us.

Word-of-mouth is the best form of endorsement we can get, so having teenagers get in the habit of posting reviews and looking for new places on our platform is what we are trying to do. As the people around them then form their own routines around the apps that they use, hopefully this will lead to greater uptake for 'What The Kids Say'.


Keeping WTKS "Safe" - September 9, 2019

Online safety is a big issue at the moment. With global giants like Facebook and YouTube under scrutiny for recent data breaches, it is evident no-one is exempt. And no-one should be exempt, either. There are numerous protections for consumers regarding the collection and distribution of personal information, but things get a little more complicated when it comes to dealing with children.

The global standard in terms of regulation designed to limit the collection of personal information online is the Children's Online Privacy Protection Act, more commonly referred to as 'COPPA'. Passed in 1998 by the US Congress, it has since been adopted by other jurisdictions and is quite loosely speaking, the reason social media platforms and other online entities require users to be 13 before signing up or creating an account.

WHAT THE KIDS SAY follows the accepted industry standard in not collecting the personal information required to setup an account from a user under the age of 13, but 'data privacy' isn't the only contentious issue regarding online safety for young people at the moment.

As the father of two young girls myself, I know the difficulty parents can have monitoring online behaviour and keeping an eye on everything your children are doing. Maintaining the integrity of WTKS is extremely important to me. I want WTKS to be a platform that I have no concerns about my daughters being on, so simply meeting the legal obligations is not something I am satisfied with doing.

Many critics of social media platforms popular with teenagers such as Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube have (legitimately) raised concerns about bullying and the content young users are exposed to. In order to ensure our app remains a 'safe' online environment, we have put a series of other safety measures in place to prevent exposure to inappropriate material.

Each review published on the WTKS app is manually screened by human moderators to ensure nothing unsuitable content remains on the platform. This includes checking both photos and text content generated by users meets the WTKS content guidelines. In addition to the manual moderation of the platform, we have 'blocked' in excess of 800 specific words or phrases from being submitted in a review. This list will continually be monitored and expanded as required.

There is also a function within the app for users to report any content or material on the app which they deem to be inappropriate.

Additionally, any web links to our advertising partner's websites open within WTKS itself, ensuring users cannot navigate to websites which are not suitable.

Any users found to be in breach of our Terms of Use or not adhering to our policies will also by the subject of disciplinary action. This includes being suspended from using the WHAT THE KIDS SAY platform, or in more extreme cases, being banned.


The Story Behind WTKS - August 14, 2019

Something I am always curious about when I hear a new business idea is the inspiration behind it. The story behind What The Kids Say is one which occurred suddenly, but has been evolving over time.

Inspiration came from a family friend named Emily, a 14 year old who had been dragged out to breakfast by her mum to meet one of her friends. Unhappy with the choice of venue made by her mother's friend, Emily made a simply statement which would eventually become the inspiration for WTKS: "Why isn't there somewhere for kids to see what other kids say about places we go to eat?"

I knew that if was looking for information about a place I was potentially going to visit, or if I wanted to discover somewhere new, TripAdvisor would be my first port of call. What I discovered however, was that Gen Z is different to older generations. They process information differently, they create and consume content in a way unlike us 'older folk'. With the prominence of apps like Instagram, Snapchat and YouTube on teenagers home screens, it was apparent those who grew up with technology literally in their hand, favoured platforms which focussed on visual content, rather than those which are text heavy. One of the comments I received from a 12 year was "kids don't want to read". It was at that time that it occurred to me that TripAdvisor and similar review platforms may not offer a solution which the coming generation wants.

It wasn't that young people didn't want to share their opinions in reviews, it was simply that the way they did it was so fragmented! Reviews on Instagram and YouTube by teenagers and children in particular, are everywhere. They may not look like what would traditionally be regarded as a review, but that is what they are. There are hundreds of millions of reviews in the form of commentary about a place or an activity, clothes or countless other subjects.

With that, I knew we had an idea with merit. But that was the easy part. Now to build the thing!