Nearly every month this year, we’ve heard about some small social network that’s the next big thing. Twitter, Pinterest, Tumblr, Instagram, and others have been making headlines in 2012 for their rapid growth and popularity with Millennials. Social media is splintering. Facebook has dominated the scene for years, but lately it’s being eclipsed by the buzz around niche networks. That’s not to say Facebook is falling out of favor. More Millennials (93%) continue to use Facebook than any other social site, far exceeding the number on Twitter (53%), Google+ (45%), LinkedIn (32%), Tumblr (31%), Pinterest (26%), and Instagram, according to research conducted this January.
And compared to a year ago, more users are spending the same or more time on those sites rather than less. The overarching reason they’re on social sites hasn’t changed — they want to share, discover, and connect with their friends — but the networks they’re using to do so are changing.
They can use Facebook for all their social media needs, but some users are finding other networks are better for certain activities. Those other sites are becoming established niche social networks. When they want to share ideas or inspiration for a hobby, some prefer Pinterest and Twitter over Facebook to do so. When they want to update their status, Twitter beats out Facebook for nearly a quarter of Millennials. When they want to check in, for some, Foursquare is the best way to do so. Perhaps most interesting are the actions for which Millennials say all social sites are about the same; those represent opportunities for the next niche site. This chart shows the preferred networks for a variety of actions for which Millennials use social media.
Marketers who want to use the social sphere to connect with Millennials should consider how teens and 20-somethings use each site and tap into those natural behaviors. Planning a campaign on Pinterest should reflect users’ creativity and desire for inspiration. A campaign on Tumblr should be informal and give users some fun eye candy tied to a theme.
Facebook has some competition that marketers need to pay attention to, but it will remain the dominant social network for the foreseeable future. If Millennials are what they share, what’s the point of sharing and connecting on a social site if your friends aren’t there? Most of their friends are on Facebook. They join and test other niche networks because they like being the first in their group to discover and share a new site. Slowly, those sites gain critical mass, as Twitter has done in the past year, and eventually can represent a greater threat to Facebook’s dominance.