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Facebook Is No Longer the Most Popular Social Network for Teens (slate.com)
84 points by cjdrake on Oct 25, 2013 | hide | past | web | favorite | 75 comments

It's great that young people are diversifying in this way, but isn't it a little apples to oranges? You don't use Facebook to send disappearing images to each other, you don't use Instagram to plan events or remind you of birthdays, and you don't use Snapchat to share pictures of your cat with followers around the world. They're very different things, yet they are all lumped into the category "social network" because you can make connections with people. By that standard, practically any online service or platform these days is a social network!

Still, it's very significant that Facebook is not the go-to thing for lots of online connective tasks (even if they do own Instagram). People don't want all their interactions to be on one platform for the same reason no one puts all their eggs in the same basket, and in addition, there are nicer baskets out there to try out!

Absolutely. It is a complete misunderstanding if they're considering services like Facebook, Instagram, and Snapchat as somehow mutually exclusive.

You can only really compare Facebook with services like Google+, Myspace, and Orkut; and even then, many people have active accounts on multiple of those services.

Isn't that how it starts though? It is no longer possible to disrupt Facebook on its terms. You have to offer something completely different at first then slowly add Facebooks key features to provide a smooth transition.

Is there a precedent you're referring to? Because I believe all of the above social networks started as... social networks.

"Innovator's Dilemma" describes a similar process. An underdog comes along, creates an inferior product or a product addressing slightly different needs, and then slowly but surely builds up its feature set to address the big dog's other customers.

Again, where's the precedent in the world of social networking...

What does it matter?

I thought Facebook stared as as a hot or not clone for Harvard students.

That was zucks facemash website.

"By that standard, practically any online service or platform these days is a social network!" Yes, but to me, this is the correct standard anyway. Two reasons: a) My time is limited: Anytime I spend on something like Medium is time away from Facebook. They are all competing for that limited time I have for being involved in a social network. and b) All these services generally also mean a different set of friends for the me. There is some overlap but almost all my social networks have a different group of followers/recommenders etc. The more time I invest in building one set of friends, the less I do in another - and this is a sticky investment, one that can easily prove make or break for any social network.

> but isn't it a little apples to oranges?

Not really. Twitter is just as good for identity as Facebook, if not more so, since they can more easily verify identity with mobile accounts, which is how most people access twitter.

On top of that, they have a lot of engineers working on how to parse messages with slang and code. So even though there is not purpose-built UIs for events and picture sharing, Twitter and Facebook both solve the same need for 3rd parties.

To be clear, this doesn't mean teens aren't using Facebook. It just means they don't call Facebook their "most important" social network. That's a huge difference: more teens are likely still using Facebook than Twitter, they just don't consider it their most important social network.

This means Facebook has essentially reached utility status, which is reflected anecdotally in my life. It's replaced email for a generation. But that's arguably a fine place for them to be: if you own the entire backbone of people's communications, there's a lot of money to be made in that. You'll find a lot more teens who use Facebook but not Twitter than the inverse.

To put it another way, if asked I'd say Hacker News is "more important" to me than Google Search. But Google definitely makes a lot more (potential) money off me.

Hacker News is more important to you than Google Search ? sorry, that cracked me up

Yup. :) For one thing, HN doesn't really have any viable alternatives at this point. Google has plenty.

Um, since Instagram is Facebook, by my estimate Facebook owns 46% of that graph and is still most popular by a long-shot.

If you want to get pedantic, then the Facebook corporation is the most popular social network corporation. We're talking about platforms here, not the parent company.

The chart shows a huge jump in "Other," from 4% to 17% in just six months. I wish they explained that. Vine?

Snapchat is one. Especially in the youngsters it's usage is rising pretty fast.

In Asia (at least here in Thailand) I think LINE is quickly overtaking all other social networks. It's sort of like What's App, but with much more functionality.

They have huge advertising campaign going on here in India with top bollywood stars. I would still be surprised if they were doing good here. Why is there still a market for internet messengers? There are so many of them already. it's like image sharing apps.

Ok, here is what I have observed so far (I don't use Line myself):

1. Line works with your telephone number (if you have someones number you can send them a message)

2. Line allows you to send messages (free sms) and voice calls.

3. Line allows you to have friend groups.

But there also reasons specific to Asia (at least Thailand):

1. Line has a "cute look" and has smilie packs which you can buy (big images actually). Thais seem to love that. Westerners would probably find them childish.

2. Line has status messages. These seems to be used in quite an interesting way: to tell people something which you don't really want to tell them directly, e.g. "Stop being jealous. Change your life to make other people jealous.".

Yeah I imagine vine and snapchat are the two biggest growth social networks.


Reddit is a social bookmarking site, not a social networking site.

The focus is on the content, not the user.

I was really surprised to see Reddit called a "bookmarking site" however Google tells me you're not alone in calling it that.

Is it really bookmarking? It seems so different than, say, Delicious is/was.

Facebook and friend are losing content, then you lose people, then you are finished.

Facebook is becoming more unpopular among other groups, as well. I am tempted to say that everyone is getting sick of Facebook. Many of my friends now have a love/hate relationship with it, trying to make a higher quality experience by shaving down their friends' lists or just deleting their profile altogether. I feel Facebook burnout as well...it's this thing I have to do compulsively, which offers no joy, yet it's where everyone is, so I don't really have a choice but to go there to keep in touch with everyone...and I think that is the general sentiment these days at least among my mid-30s peer group...many of whom don't bother checking their page anymore...

I'm curious if that is a function of how Facebook works or if that is what naturally happens when you see everyone you know online doing fun things (which would apply to every social network of that size).

Not sure, but I believe in the law of diminishing returns...after a while, a human being gets used to something, and eventually sick of it after repeated exposure.

Social networks: the best way to waste time ever invented in the history of history.

I never saw a need for any of them. Twitter had potential, but it got overrun by people who somehow felt the need to rant about their opinions on political decisions without being completely educated about any of them, by celebrities, by people who can't spell, and by people who think that @messages are the perfect way to privately communicate on the internet.

I really don't see Snapchat lasting for longer than a year. The others will stay around for a while, but then eventually fade into irrelevance... like all trends that don't provide palpable services, e.g. Google et des autres fournisseurs de recherches.

Also a very nice way for everyone to create their own dossiers, that most law enforcement agencies can access even without a warrant these days, and can even collect en masse.

I find Silicon Valley's obsession with teens fascinating. Why is teen usage a benchmark for the health of a startup?

Do teenagers spend money online? Is there any research on that?

Teens represent the near future. They'll grow up and maybe carry their allegiances forward.

If services only remain at their peak for 4/5 years this doesn't represent much of an advantage.

The question is, does Facebook behave like Google, or even more generally, like e-mail, and last a long time, or is it just another 4-5 year fad? If its a longer term tool then the behavioral trends of young demographics are a big deal.

I think this article proves that wrong (if these stats are true). Teens are the most fickle demographic out there!

Strongly disagree. Teens grow up. Demands on their time changes. Later on they maybe get married, get houses, kids. Life priorities change. Other platforms, tools offer a better fit for their altered circumstances. They move on.

I'll predict that a couple of years from now, the main population left on FB will be 60- somethings who once again are at a stage in their lives where they can afford the time for it.

Maybe - though my guess is that they'll join a university population and/or workforce and start interacting with the wider world, that just happens to be significantly on Facebook. But at 40 mine is hardly a relevant opinion :)

My guess is they'll join university & the workforce, and then they'll join the world's most popular social network: email. ;)

They don't. 20somethings don't use SMTP-backed email as a significant component of telecommunication.

They use websites, apps, and txting.

As a 20-something, email still has an important place for official communication. Email is to texting/Facebook message what dead-tree letters are to email.

My guess is that the teenager/young adult demographic is highly coveted by advertisers because they tend to have disposable income (gross generalization) and are the most vocal/enthusiastic customers. they can act like 3d billboards for whatever they happen to be into. idk just a guess

Are facebook and twitter still startups?

That's because all the parents are on it.

The other night at dinner my eleven year old daughter asked me "What's instagam?" and then proceeded to ask if she could have an account because all her friends were on it. I told her no because I don't like the idea of her on a social network yet (and it's probably against their TOS anyway).

Truthfully, I don't know why there isn't a K-12 social network that has schools and teachers, and kids were grouped by class, and teachers could moderate all posts and (have the option to) see all messages (with a notice to the parties that it had been looked at). That would alleviate any concerns I had about inappropriate content, and online bullying (there's a record, kids would be accountable for what was said), and provide immediate benefit to students and parents (who could maybe have accounts that were read-only for public discussions and their own children's correspondence).

Edit: As numerous replies have pointed out, there apparently is one, edmodo.com. I guess it's just not used around (or at least not in my district).

Because kids would never use it. They like their hidden caves. It's similar to passing secret notes to each other in class. Except now they can do it from afar.

Oh, they would use it if it was a valuable resource for asking for help with homework, communicating with other students and teachers, the only way to contact some of their friends (which aren't allowed on other networks), or in any way mandated. Parents would like it for the control it offered, and kids aren't in total control of their choices.

Kids might also want and indeed use other social networks, but I would feel much more comfortable as a parent telling them no if I knew they had this to fall back on.

Chicken and egg problem - they wouldn't be really active ther because they don't want to, and because noone is really active, then it wouldn't be a valuable resource for homework and communicating with other students.

I've seen a large implementation (around 1/3 schools in my area) that technically could do all that, but you can only 'mandate' a horse to the water but can't make it drink - in the end, they were used for parents to look up grades communicate with teachers, while kids used only the absolutely practical things rarely, and since they couldn't be mandatory (as not 100% can afford a computer at home) it sort of died out. It would be fun to ask the developers what percent of kids sent even a single message to another kid... All at the same time, the ten year olds are extremely active online elsewhere.

I wonder how much of that was based on (lack of) teacher buy-in and parents knowing about it? I can tell you that if the teacher was available on such a system in my are, there would be at least a few users just from my kids.

Beyond any moral or parent protectiveness issues, Facebook, Google Plus and Instagram all require you be at least 13 years old to use their services. My (very limited) understanding is that TOS are in some cases legally enforceable now, so letting kids use those sites is problematic from my perspective.

What teacher buy-in would you like and reasonably expect?

Does such a system have a single practical benefit to a teacher doing their job, that they couldn't / wouldn't do better offline by simply talking to the kid at school after the lesson? It's a benefit for the parents, and they got the daily status information (attendance, grades, discipline&other issues) flowing quickly and easily from teachers to parents, that part worked.

What would you expect from a teacher buy-in there - individual assistance with the homework online in the evenings ? My imagination is failing me here :) The original post sort of implied that it would be the place where you'd want kids to move their communication between themselves, no? (and they wouldn't avoid any important communication in any place moderated or monitored by their parents, naturally)

In any case, teachers pretty much everywhere tend to be overworked and underpaid; as much as they want to chat with a few kids individually they are already doing it in school. However, if you're (for a random example) teaching math to only 6 groups of 30 pupils each, then if you'd spend after hours 5 minutes weekly on online communication for each student, it would come out 15 hours per week, on top of handling homework - it's simply not going to happen.

> Does such a system have a single practical benefit to a teacher doing their job, that they couldn't / wouldn't do better offline by simply talking to the kid at school after the lesson?

I think so, as long as the scope is clearly defined. You are right in your later implications that it could easily be subverted to a tool making more work for teachers, and I was erroneously drifting down that path.

> What would you expect from a teacher buy-in there

Listing homework for the night

Listing upcoming longer term assignment dates

Noting any information that students/parents should be aware of

Sending important announcements to students/parents

Addendums to lesson plans that they forgot to cover or came to light later ("Joey brought to light that I might have been unclear or misspoke when I was referring to the Spanish inquisition. What I should have said is that 'No one expects the Spanish Inquisition!' That should help you complete your History of Monty Python unit tonight.")

An official way to send a message to a teacher outside of class

I receive emails from one daughter's teacher on a regular basis, at least twice a week, because she hates the school website software (I hate it as well, it's horrendously bad). The other daughter's teacher has emailed maybe once, to confirm the address. I assume all her updates are going to the website, I haven't seen them. The teachers are all very responsive to email though.

> The original post sort of implied that it would be the place where you'd want kids to move their communication between themselves, no?

No, just that it is a place they could communicate between themselves, with some other benefits and a heaping level of oversight. My daughters would use it because 1) They aren't on any social networks, 2) they don't have any email addresses I know of (I'm not discounting that they don't have any, but I doubt it at this point, ask again in a year), and 3) we don't have a land line, just cell phones, so she doesn't have a lot of easy ways to contact some of her friends.

> In any case, teachers pretty much everywhere tend to be overworked and underpaid

Agreed. I'm all about using technology to make life better and reduce work, not create more work. When I'm referring to teacher moderation, my original thought was more along the lines of the teacher being able to research and see message history of a student when actively searching. If someone complains they are being bullied or targeted, that shouldn't be any more acceptable in the online system as in the classroom. I think kids need a safe place to learn this.

As a replacement for a class website, I think it would have quite a bit of potential.

For this functionality such systems work okay - but they won't work for kids-to-kids communication due to the same chicken and egg problem.

Your daughters wouldn't (couldn't) use it the way you imagine, because, face it, the 'critical mass' of other kids who'd they want to talk to simply wouldn't be on such a system online/active/quickly responding as they are on facebook/snapchat/whatever.

And I'm not sure if any classmate communication forum with a heaping level of oversight is realistic - the nature of teens and pre-teens is such that any must-be-part-of social activities would happen elsewhere; and if all the good stuff is elsewhere, then they don't need/want to use the monitored forum.

It is illegal in the US for a company to collect information from a child under the age of 13. COPPA.

That is why the TOS are all what they are.

My college has some combination course/forum software (Canvas, if you want to know). The only forum thread ( for my CS class was started by yours truly, and there are no replies. It's possible that other people use the private message system, and we look at the site to get assignments, but that's about it. I had a friend tell me about a class she took where forum participation was mandatory (with quotas for various actions), resulting in the predictable phoniness. The forum for my accounting class has no activity whatsoever.

So essentially, no one uses it as a social tool. I doubt young children would be that interested either. It would be hard to take seriously as a "fall back", either. The real fall-back is email and SMS.

The way you describe it, it could work in theory. But kids (humans) don't wanna feel like all their thoughts are going to be scrutinized by someone above them and possibly punished. Remember when you'd have secret agreements (pinky swear!) with friends about things that would get you in trouble with mom? Yeah.

I'd be worried about the burden this places on teachers (if they are policing it). The normal age 15 cut off seems reasonable. Kids can just deal with it (or resourcefully sneak around if so inclined).

Well, by moderation I mean the teacher has full control, not that the teacher has to every response (but maybe every post). Read-only parent accounts could help with this.

Same issue here: pre-teen kids asking about why so-and-so has 100's of Instagram followers. The school system encouraged social networks by introducing Edmodo[1]. Signed our pre-teen up with a private / restricted account but that level of restriction isn't the norm. The photo stream seems like a mix of LOLcats and 4chan/v but with a ton of snarky comments that puts HN'ers to shame.

[1] https://www.edmodo.com

I'm sure there are thousand of those 'social networks'… except that who will want to be part of that?

At least when I was her age, I didn't want to pass time where teachers were.

Edmodo is mainly for augmenting the classroom and isn't designed and used for student-to-student social networking outside of topics in the class. It's a great tool though for educating kids with what is considered appropriate/inappropriate behavior online.

Facebook EDU: a school-managed Facebook account with parental controls. I wonder how long it will be before this happens. I like your idea, but I'm not sure how I would feel if Facebook operated it.

Damned if you do, damned if you don't; Do you want useful features rolled out on a regular basis, or you want peace of mind that the company involved is dedicated to working directly with K-12 institutions as their primary concern, without alternate revenue streams and business needs getting in the way.

Because teens would never use it.

I've come out of the cave just a while ago. Children are sneaky little demons.

Have teenagers ever been an important group for Facebook? It started for college students only, thus for the first few years the only other age group it could expand to were people who started using it in college and continued to do so as they got older. My assumption would be from there it spread to/through friends and coworkers (most of which would be past their teens).

I find it a little bit hard to believe that tumblr is only 4% and that Google+ is 3%.

I highly doubt the veracity of these numbers.

It seems as if Zuckerberg (fore)saw this trend. This explains why he paid such a hefty price for Instagram.

> Twitter has overtaken Facebook as the social media network that is most important to teens, according to Piper Jaffray's semi-annual teen market research report. Twitter is the new king of teens, with 26 percent naming it as their "most important" social site.

(emphasis mine)

> Only 23 percent said Facebook was most important

(emphasis mine)

A difference of ~3 points in a group as fickle as teenagers isn't very significant.

Facebook had monopoly once and now it has less than quarter.

Yeah, yeah, IPO is coming, we know.

Tried to signup for facebook several times today and it kept asking for my phone number. I wonder if teens are less willing to go through that hassle.

Compare that to twitter's new onboarding experience, which is (arguably) very well done.

No they don't want to hang out on the same place their mom is. They have accounts but they sit idle.

I just wanted to point out: Instagram + Facebook = 46%

One thing is for sure. Teenagers are no longer the most popular demographic for Facebook.

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