While Facebook remains the number one social network, its popularity among teenagers has been dwindling. According to a survey of over 5,000 teenagers conducted by investment bank and asset management firm, Piper Jaffray, only 33% of teenagers consider Facebook to be the most important social network — 10% fewer than last year.
Facebook’s “teenager problem” goes beyond teen usage of its predominant competitor, Twitter. According to the same survey, 30% of teenagers consider Twitter to be the most important social network. But what about the remaining ~40% of teens? Facebook usage is declining not because teenagers are flocking “en masse” to a particular social network, but because they are increasingly using a variety of applications.
Teens stay on Facebook to engage with friends and acquaintances, however they also gravitate from it as they do not want their parents and grandparents seeing everything they post. Teens are increasingly looking for a place they can call their own. And, fortunately for them, their relatives are not on sites like Tumblr and Snapchat.
Additionally, sites universally used like Facebook and Twitter fuel teenage anxiety and insecurity. According to Fox News’ Dr. Manny, teenagers base their self worth on the number of likes, comments and followers they obtain on Facebook and Twitter. While Vine, which allows users to create six second videos also encourages its users to use hashtags and obtain followers, it is focused just on videos and has less visibility.
Moreover, teenagers represent a fickle demographic with short attention spans — they do not want to read long Facebook timeline stories, but instead want instant sharing and gratification using specialized and visual tools. Instead of social networks that require detailed profiles, they are moving toward quick and easy messaging services. Applications like Snapchat allow users to exchange customized photos with their friends, which, by default, get deleted a few seconds after viewing them.
This is a blogging platform that relies heavily on imagery and short posts. Most of Tumblr’s traffic comes from users who are under the age of 25. Tumblr culture is based on memes that relate to various topics, such as fashion, pop culture and photography. Though in Piper Jaffray’s survey only 4% teenagers consider Tumblr to the most important social network, Tumblr users are much more engaged with the site — reading and posting content about things they care about for hours — than on Facebook. This is a big issue for Facebook that thrives on its user base spending hours of their time on the site, updating their information, sharing content, and seeing advertisements.
Kik is a fast, simple and personal smartphone messenger system. Instead of sending emails and texts, users can exchange videos, sketches, smileys and more. Perfect for our current “meme culture”, Kik lets users search for and share images, memes and YouTube videos. In 2012 itself, Kik had 30 million users.
This is a messaging service where users can send photos, videos, texts and creative drawings to a regulated list of people. Photos get destroyed soon after they have been received, giving Snapchat users an illusion of anonymity. Facebook, on the other hand, has everything you do documented in the form of a timeline for almost everyone you know to see even three years later. As of February 2013, over 60 million photos were being exchanged daily on Snapchat. (even higher than Instagram, which is at 40 million photos uploaded each day.)
Vine is like Instagram for videos. Users can create short, beautiful looping videos that can be instantly shared – perfect for the teen demographic that seems more interested in applications that support creating visual content without investing too much time. According to business journals, by simplifying the media publishing process, “Vine is doing to YouTube what Twitter did to Blogger.” Vine has only been around for a few months, but has already risen to #1 in the app store.
Pheed allows users to share all forms of digital content — links, images, videos, audio files and live stream events. Posts are limited to 420 characters. Teens are responsible for Pheed’s quick growth, pushing it to number one on the iPhone app store in the social network category. In fact, 81% of Pheed’s user base is between 14to 25-years-old.
While at one point it seemed as though Facebook disrupted the landscape and would remain the clear, dominant social network for a long time, changes are slowly but surely taking place. The trend, particularly with the younger demographic, seems to support more specific social networks — statuses on Twitter, photos on Instagram, pin boards on Pinterest, live stream on Pheed and short videos on Vine.
Facebook is, however, trying to respond to these changes by, for example, making users' news feed more visual. Only time will tell if its strategies will be successful, or if Facebook will become the next MySpace. For now, however, it is safe to say that significant changes are taking place in the social network space, and that teens are using several social networks besides just Facebook.