All the talk about teenagers abandoning Facebook (which I have contributed to in previous posts) may be overblown or indeed just plain wrong, according to a new report from Forrester Research, titled “Facebook Dominates Teens’ Social Usage: Why the Sky Isn’t Falling on the World’s Favorite Social Network.”
“Since Facebook’s CFO admitted in 2013 that young teens were visiting the site slightly less frequently, most marketers have accepted as fact that teens are fleeing the site en masse. But that’s simply not true,” according to the study, which is based on Forrester’s 2014 North American Consumer Technographics Youth Survey.
Forrester surveyed 4,517 teenagers ages 12-17 about their social media habits, and found that 78% are using Facebook, while 46% said they were using Facebook more than they were last year, and 28% say they use it “all the time.” Overall, “Facebook remains by far young users’ favorite social network,” and “Facebook users agreed that they use Facebook more than any other social site.”
For comparison, Instagram lagged behind, used by just over half of teens, Twitter was used by less than half of teens, and Snapchat was used by 38%. Only YouTube was used by more teens, at 87%. All these sites, including YouTube, ranked lower than Facebook in the proportion of users who said they use them “all the time.”
What’s more, Forrester predicts that rates of Facebook usage will actually rise, thanks to growing smartphone penetration and tweens transitioning to teens: “As today’s 12- and 13-year-olds grow into 16- and 17-year-olds, it’s likely their Facebook adoption will increase further.”
For the sake of balance, you can compare the Forrester data with previous research that appears to show Facebook usage declining among teens. In August 2013 a Pew survey found that 84% of teens and young adults said they use Facebook; that was down 2% from the 86% who said they use Facebook in 2012. Then in January of this year, iStrategyLabs, drawing on data from Facebook’s social advertising platform, found that the number of Americans ages 13-17 using Facebook declined 25.3% from 13.1 million in January 2011 to 9.8 million in January 2014, while the number of users ages 18-24 declined 7.5% from 45.4 million to 42 million over the same period.
Another survey by the USC Annenberg Center for the Digital Future and Bovitz, Inc. found that roughly one in three (30%) Facebook users believe they will be using the service less within the next five years. Within this group, 40% say they use Twitter, while Instagram is also growing fast, especially among millennials.
I’m not sure quite where this leaves us, except to say that the issue is far from settled, and (as always) you should take all these survey results with a big grain of salt. If I were to be slightly more bold I would venture that Facebook will remain the dominant social network for the foreseeable future, and even if teens are adopting other social media platforms, they’re still very likely to have a Facebook account and use it a fair amount, if only for a limited set of activities.