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alex from target

Never Underestimate the Power of a Teenage Girl

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Never underestimate the power of a teenage girl.  Have you heard about the latest social media sensation – Alex from Target?  I will admit that the first time that I heard about this viral photo was not long before I began writing this post.  I have had something on this topic swirling around in my head, but reading about this young man’s photo finally got all the pieces to pop into place for me.

I first “met” Alex when I read a blog about an interview about a teenage girl who took a photo of a nice-looking 16-year-old young man (who works at Target) for her friend.  She tweeted the photo, and somehow the picture became a viral sensation.  This caught my attention mostly because I have been pondering the potential issues involved with teenagers, smart phones and social media.   He did not know anything about being an internet sensation until his manager showed him the picture.  He didn’t even know the picture had been taken.  That part should really scare us as parents.  Child-predators,  cyber-bullying and sexting are real, and very scary, dangers to teens in today’s social-savvy world; but this blog post isn’t about that.

Power of a Teenage Girl

Since I had read just the one interview, I was curious about the rest of the story.  I found this article including a video of Alex being interviewed on Ellen.  He seems like a nice, and very befuddled, young man.  It’s easy to imagine a continued rise to fame for him.  He’s a nice-looking kid, and presents himself well.  Now that he has been “discovered”, I can easily see him becoming the next Teen-With-His-Own-Show-on-Disney, or Next-Teen-Singing-Sensation…all because of one tweet.

I decided to dig a little deeper, and soon found an article about a marketing company claiming that they had grabbed the picture on Twitter and did a little experiment and effectively created the viral sensation themselves.  More poking around revealed articles touting that the whole thing was a hoax for marketing purposes.  A little more googling and I even found stories that claimed that calling the viral sensation a hoax was a hoax in itself, for marketing purposes.  My head was starting to spin from all the conspiracy theories I kept finding!

Whatever the truth is behind the “Alex from Target” story, there is one thing that is absolutely certain:  Marketing with social media is no joke.  Alex went from 144 Twitter followers to hundreds of thousands.  Over. Night.  This seems like really great news for those of us who hope to earn our living blogging, and who use social media to market ourselves.  What it really reveals though, is that teenage girls are a HUGE marketing phenomenon.  Whether it was all completely real and innocent, the entire thing is a hoax, or an entity picked up in the middle of it to create a marketing sensation; teenage girls, probably unknowingly, drove the whole thing.

If you ever wonder about the powers of social media marketing, think about this:  Have you ever heard of Harry Potter or 50 Shades of Grey?  While I am definitely not, in any way, recommending these books or movies, I can tell you that one of the main reasons they have soared in popularity is because of the internet.  Marketers created the image that these brands were something you wanted, something you needed and something you needed now.  Word of mouth on the internet is a lightning-fast vehicle that marketers know how to use to their advantage.  In the blink of an eye, you can tell all of your Facebook friends, Twitter followers, and Pinterest followers that you LOVE something.  Before you know it, your followers are sharing your opinion, and adding their own, via their own social media networks; and so it continues exponentially!

It is so easy to share a thought, image or status without thinking twice about the deeper meaning.  Alex was just a kid at his job, and now he is a celebrity.  A publisher wants to sell a book that glorifies children using witchcraft, and parents are thrilled that their children are actually reading.  Another publisher markets an explicit novel about a disturbing and dysfunctional relationship, and women are giddy with anticipation of the upcoming movie.

Whether unknowingly, or intentionally, marketers have discovered the power behind the teenage girl.  Of course, boys and girls are both on the internet and social media, but I think it is evident that girls are the more frequent users of social media.  What does this mean for us as parents?  We must be very careful to train our girls, if we allow them to use it, how to handle social media without adding their voice to marketing strategies that do not glorify God.  Philippians 4:8 reminds us:

“Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” 

We need to teach our daughters (and sons) that they need to hold everything up to the Word of God – the Bible.  If it does not fit within the parameters of Philippians 4:8, they just need to avoid being a part of it.   Using this principle, our daughters can make their voices heard in a way that spreads what is good and lovely, and be a part of stopping what is not.