I have judged at Ohio DECA (a marketing-based high school competition) for the past 10 years. And it is amazing what I’ve seen during that time in regard to social media adoption.

When you consider that Twitter didn’t even exist when I started judging it’s truly remarkable how fast social media overall has evolved with this group.

Last year I blogged about what I learned so I thought it might be a good idea to do it again this year:

1. Twitter is where it’s at. I’m so proud. It took teens a little longer to embrace Twitter but they’re finally there. I remember four years ago when the mere mention of Twitter was met with disgust and confusion (‘it’s just for news’). Not only was Twitter referenced in every marketing plan I judged, but the small group of teens I actually interviewed said it’s their social network of choice. Why? Because it’s easy to use and as real-time as it gets.

Ironically, as I’ve been blogging about lately, they see Twitter as an opportunity to talk trash to each other and about each other. (They taught me a new term – subtweets – which they refer to as passive-aggressive tweets directed at someone without actually calling them out.)

I’m alarmed that my theory is a little more true than I thought and while those I talked to admit that yea, they are talking trash, it’s just become an ‘accepted thing’.

2. Teens love brands. To the above point, teens have no problem tweeting what they think, whether it’s about you, their friend or the burrito they just ate. They expect to interact with brands and react strongly (negatively and positively) to free ‘stuff’ (as a make good, loyalty reward or trial).

3. Your life in pictures. Instagram is hot right now. It is definitely a favorite channel. We had a lot of time to kill and at least the group I was with passed it by catching up on Instagram. And yes, they love selfies as much as you would expect them to.

4. Go home Facebook. Nobody likes you. Wow was the reaction to Facebook negative. The jokes about it being for your mom and grandma are true – teens don’t want any part of a network their family is on (although interestingly enough mainly use it to communicate with their families).

5. They ‘get it’. All this being said about how teens use social media, I was most impressed with how they thought about social media fit into a ‘traditional’ marketing plan. Almost every plan I judged included social media activity on Twitter, Instagram, Facebook and sometimes Pinterest. Not only did they account for it, they understood that each channel required a different approach and strategy. Of course they also thought social management was something that could be done by an intern or high school student, for free…so yea. (What does that tell you about the perceived value the public puts on these ‘free’ channels? Hey, anyone can do it!)

At the end of the weekend I was inspired (and awed) by how far social media has come in the past 10 years. I think we lost sight of that sometimes, especially when we’re searching for the perfect solution or the immediate answer. Sometimes the answer isn’t clear because…it just doesn’t exist yet. But if I learned one thing this weekend it’s to be patient; anything we haven’t figured out yet will be sooner than you’d expect.