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Why Facebook wants to friend your tween

A news report says the company is looking to open membership to those under age 13.

By MSN Money Partner Jun 5, 2012 9:09AM

This post comes from Quentin Fottrell at partner site SmartMoney.

SmartMoney on MSN MoneyFacebook has good reason to allow the tween set to join the site, experts say: Users 11 to 13 are simply worth more to the company's bottom line than adults.

Image: Boy holding allowance money (© Bryan Mullennix/Photodisc/Getty Images)The social network is exploring ways to officially admit members under age 13, The Wall Street Journal reports. Opening its doors to children would help satisfy certain regulatory and privacy issues posed by the large number of underage users who sneak onto the site. But experts say Facebook is actually more interested in finding new ways of reaching  Mom and Dad's wallet.

"Tweens are the most valuable demographic for Facebook," says Charles Sankowich, CEO of location-based mobile app "They are ad-friendly, game-friendly and more likely to show a lifelong brand loyalty when they are so young."

Indeed, studies have shown that the nation's 20 million tweens are big, predictable spenders. They fork over $50 billion a year, not including the additional $170 billion their parents spend on them, according to Alloy Marketing. (Post continues below.)

What do they spend it on? About 40% of tweens buy apparel and footwear, 40% buy consumer electronics and toys, and 30% purchase video games, according to a recent Youth Markets Alert survey.

Of course, they also like to fit in, says Larissa Faw, editor at Youth Markets Alert, a trade publication. "Tweens will go where the cool people are, and that place is Facebook."

Analysts also point out that younger kids are less easily put off by online ads and more likely to play video games -- the two main drivers of Facebook's growth strategy. In fact, there's very little e-commerce on Facebook except for games, says Michael Fertik, the CEO and founder of Facebook said last month that 15% of its revenue came from either advertising or games tied to Zynga. "Because kids play games, they're very valuable to Facebook," he says.

A spokeswoman for Facebook says the company is in the midst of ongoing discussions with regulators and other policymakers "about how best to help parents keep their kids safe in an evolving online environment."

That's not to say tweens are pushovers, Faw says. Because this age group is increasingly savvy about finding deals online, she says Facebook will need to be more creative in how it presents games and other products. One option: Find an entertaining way to integrate sponsored advertising into user profiles rather than just news feeds, a switch she says would be more acceptable to tweens than adults.

What's more, parents typically monitor and limit the time their children spend on the Internet, Faw says, which means less time buying Zynga games and being targeted with advertisements for the latest Hannah Montana CD.

Still, Sankowich says tweens are a good long-term bet for Facebook. "The value of building on a brand's recognition from a young age is priceless," he says.

More on SmartMoney and MSN Money:

Jun 5, 2012 1:39PM

Tried to write a comment....negative....but..of course...

Anything...any negative....anything blocked....


Not only have they conned their users, but....a lot of people bought into their BS on their initial stock offering....and lost BIGTIME.....


Get it, people! It may seem like fun, but Facebook is, in FACT, a ridiculous "shell game"....

Jun 6, 2012 7:45PM
Let me guess- it wouldnt be about the money, would it?
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