There's No Single Social Network That's Dominant Among U.S. Teens

Facebook has seen its share of U.S. teens who cite it as their most important social network drop dramatically from 42% in the fall of 2012, to 23% in the latest edition of the same survey from Piper Jaffray, an investment bank.

Let’s keep in mind, “most important” is a vague concept that doesn’t say much about usage. Just because Facebook isn’t the “most important” social network to teens doesn’t necessarily mean they have stopped using it, or are less engaged by it. More than half of teens use Facebook regularly on a weekly basis, versus 22% who use Twitter that often, according to Survata.

What is clear is that teen social media audiences are fragmenting. No single site is dominant:

  • Twitter is now cited by teens as their most important social network, garnering 26% of the votes, but the site’s importance among teens hasn’t grown much. Twitter was cited as the most important by 27% of teens a year ago.
  • Instagram clocks in as the second-most important, tied with Facebook, and on an upward climb, nearly doubling the percentage of teens citing it since fall 2012.
  • Seventeen per cent of teens told Piper Jaffray that the most important social network wasn’t included in the list of survey options, and chose the “other” category. This number is up from just 2% a year before.

Piper Jaffray’s survey encompassed 8,650 U.S. teens with an average age of 16. More than 2,000 of these teens live in high-income households, so the survey is a bit tilted in that sense.

It’s likely that Facebook has simply lost its sheen as a cool, new social network. According to Pew, 45- to 54-year-olds are now the fastest growing age bracket on Facebook, and that can’t be doing much to boost favour among teens.

And what about newer, popular social networks not explicitly named in the survey but rather grouped under the “other” category? Snapchat, WhatsApp, and Vine are among the fastest growing apps on the global market, so they’re likely drawing in a large number of teens as well, accounting for the high proportion of respondents now choosing “other.”

Teen sentiment is notable in as much as it suggests where usage could be heading. In an April 2013 report on how teens use social media, we postulated that Snapchat and other up-and-coming apps would pose a serious threat to Facebook’s popularity among younger age groups. Piper Jaffray’s survey seems to confirm that theory.

Download the chart and data in Excel.

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