Much ado has been made about the declining use of Facebook among teens. Frank N. Magid Associates Inc. found 13- to 17-year-old social-media users on Facebook slipped to 88% in 2014 from 94% in 2013. Piper Jaffray found Facebook use among teenagers aged 13 to 19 plummeted from 72% in spring 2014 to 45% in fall 2014. Forrester Research found nearly 80% of 12- to 19-year olds visit Facebook at least once a month but only 28% “use it all the time.” Niche says 87% of high-school seniors have adopted Facebook and 61% use it daily.
Our own annual study—the Acumen Report—looked at social media use among teens in the context of content consumption. We, too, found Facebook use declined with age; Facebook was used “regularly” by 74% of 18-19 year olds, 65% of 14-17 year olds, and 47% of 13 year olds. As part of the study, 28 13- to 19-year olds allowed us to “friend” them on their social media accounts for a unique view into what content appeared in their feeds, the source of the content (i.e., branded, made by peers, etc.), and what they shared. Combined with information on online and in-person interviews with the teens, we observed platforms fell into two categories: 1) express your creativity and personality and 2) communicate or share content (either your own or third party). While both types offer the ability to connect with others, connecting is not necessarily how teens used some platforms.
YouTube, Tumblr, Vine, Snapchat and Instagram (which translate to Google, Yahoo, Twitter, Snapchat and Facebook) fell into the creativity and personality bucket. The content was sometimes silly and ranged across a variety of topics. Nonetheless, teens consistently used these platforms to express “who they are,” show off their artistic and creative sides, and receive feedback for those efforts—with the latter being an incredibly important experience. Teens talked about the second bucket of platforms, Facebook and Twitter as communication tools needed to stay in touch with friends and family (texting and messaging fell here, too).
Back to the point of the story. It wasn’t that teens didn’t use Facebook; it was just far more utilitarian compared to other platforms. It was a quick check in to see what friends—and more so family—were doing and consume content from publications, brands and other third parties. This is important because while Facebook may be viewed by fewer teens than adults, it does remain a platform where people are more likely to consume content from a third party.
Thus brands and content creators may find their content more accepted than on platforms where teens are primarily looking to express their own creativity and uniqueness. This notion is validated by a recent study showing the #1 platform for following brands is Facebook.
So the takeaway – is Facebook dead for teens? NO. Is Facebook a place where teens might connect with my brand? YES. Is Facebook a place for teens to be creative and hang out with their peers? NO. So while still of use to teens, Facebook risks lower usage in the long-term because other platforms are filling teens’ need to express their creativity and inner selves.