While every survey and report available indicates that Facebook's most active demographic is young adults ages 18-29, news outlets have been buzzing with stories indicating that the social media giant may be falling out of favor with teens, and newer social sites and mobile apps are gaining traction.
Most studies of Facebook demographics by established firms like Pew begin measuring user populations at age 18. Considerable percentages of each adult age bracket indicate that they use the dominant social network. Even 35% of those over the age of 65 claim to use Facebook.
In a recent survey of more than 1,000 Internet users aged 13-25, Tumblr proved to be outpacing Facebook, with the broadest stretch among the teens 13-18. Sixty-one percent of this younger demographic indicated using Tumblr, compared to 55% of Facebook. Snapchat and Instagram also appear to be more toward teen's liking than young adults following high school graduation.
A 6% difference in teens' use of Tumblr over Facebook may not seem significant at the moment, unless one remembers when it was big news of Myspace reaching 80 million users just a few years ago, followed soon by reports of them losing 10 million users in one month in early 2011.
Meanwhile, Facebook enjoys a user base of 1 billion today.
It's noteworthy as well that Facebook's command of the coveted “social login” (where users opt to log in to third-party sites using a social network account) remains high at about 50% but has begun to take a hit from Google. Noteworthy also is that Tumblr does not provide the capability to log in to their site with Facebook.
It isn't just this one survey of 1,038 young users indicating that teens' enthusiasm for Facebook is waning. Facebook itself has acknowledged that their youngest users “are aware of and actively engaging with other products and services similar to, or as a substitute for, Facebook.”
What might be the greater attraction of sites like Instagram and Tumblr to teens? These sites have simple, direct, and tidy interfaces which so far aren't teeming with blatant ads and marketing, and some youth feel that the social posturing that began on Myspace and made it's way to Facebook hasn't infected Tumblr yet.
"[Tumblr] just seems more intimate and it's not really a place of bragging, but more of a place of sharing," said 15-year-old Collin Wisniewski, according to The Verge in their March 1 article, “The age of the brag is over.”
With so many mid-lifers having ascended upon Facebook in droves over the past few years, another telling feature of these more recently popular social sites could be that Mom and Dad aren't there yet. Bear in mind that the number of moms on Facebook has gone from 50% in 2010 to 72% in 2012. Education Database Online has reported that 1 in 3 teens on Facebook are embarrassed by their parents' comments, and 30% of teens would un-friend their parents if they could get away with it.
Why does it all matter? The obvious concern for parents will be possibly losing awareness or influence over their kids' online activities. Again. While parenting watchdogs may speak of simply denying your teens access to certain sites, those watchdogs clearly live under a rock in 2013. Parents will have to be creative and resourceful in order to keep up with their teens' online activities and personas as an endlessly moving target, if at all. In the 70s, 80s, and even the 90s kids expected their privacy by shutting their bedroom doors. Today they want to avoid crossing paths with their parents online.
Another matter of interest is corporations' understandable desire to tap into teen trends and buying influence. With Tumblr boasting accounts from the likes of Lady Gaga and Zooey Deschanel, a valuation of $800 million or more, and having begun to show up on marketers' radar, it stands to reason that Tumblr — and other newer social sites hoping to gain profits and remain highly relevant more than a few years — will have to figure out how to let the money flow without removing their cool factor, unless the real objective is to build a glass house, cash out, and move on to the next big thing.
Realistically, teens are going to move quickly from one online sensation to the next, and among them, one sure-fire way to take something from “cool” to ice-cold is to find Mom and Dad peeking around the corner. Tumblr and similar sites might need to figure out what demographic they even really want — Facebook certainly figured out that users over 30 made sense for a Wall Street IPO.
So kids will have fun on Tumblr while they can but will be wary of mom's watchful eye. As the graph above shows, she's gonna get there eventually.