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Where the Teens are on Social

teens on social media

Over 2.8 billion people – that’s 37% of the world’s population – use social media. And in America, seven in ten people use social media. But the way those people interact with each other and the platforms they use varies widely. With audience segmentation tools constantly evolving, marketers must keep track of the numerous audiences and take note of how consumer behaviours are changing. Business Insider indicates that in the United States gender, income, and education level have little impact on whether someone is engaged in social networking. However, age remains a factor.


Pew Research Center reports that Facebook continues to be the most popular social networking platform in the U.S. with almost eight in ten online Americans (79%) using the social channel. This is more than twice as many users as Instagram (32%), Pinterest (31%), LinkedIn (29%), or Twitter (24%). Pew attributes Facebook’s rising numbers, in part, to the growing number of older adults joining the site. (62% of online adults ages 65 and older now use Facebook, a 14-point increase from the 48% who reported doing so in 2015.)

Facebook remains the most-used social media site; its users visit the site more regularly than users of other sites do – 76% of Facebook users use the site daily. U.S. Facebook users aged 45-54 are spending more time on Facebook and represent 21% of the total time spent on the platform, more than any other age group. For years, teens would bemoan every time their mom sent friend requests. Now, its par for the course for Grandpa and Great Aunt Susie to be on the social network. And as more and more older people join Facebook, more and more younger people are looking for other social networks. So how and why is the largest social network losing the teens?

If a teen hasn’t left Facebook completely, they’re certainly less engaged, logging in less frequently and spending less time on the network. There is even a growing demographic of tweens who have never started a Facebook account (although they still engage with Facebook-owned Instagram – more on this below). Facebook’s appeal is clearly fading among teens and young adults and as they migrate to other social channels, what their favored social platforms will be shifts.


A new survey conducted by The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found that American teenagers age 13-17 have shifted their favored social platforms and are more likely to be using Instagram and Snapchat.

The key findings include:

  • 76% of American teens age 13-17 use Instagram.
  • 75% of teens use Snapchat.
  • 66% of teens use Facebook.
  • 47% of teens use Twitter.
  • Fewer than 30% of teens use Tumblr, Twitch, or LinkedIn.

Seventy-six percent of American teens use Instagram! Since Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram in 2012, the image-sharing network has grown to more than 800 million users. Roughly 32% of all online adults use the photo-sharing app so clearly its reach is massive. And three-quarters of teens use Snapchat? Well that explains the 178 million daily active Snapchatters globally.

Studies indicate that Instagram and Snapchat adoption is still going steady in the U.S. and the U.K.. My theory as to why teens and tweens are migrating to Instagram and Snapchat is that these two platforms rely more heavily on visual content, which is how the younger age groups likes to communicate. A simple theory but it makes sense, no?


Okay, we’ve established teens and tweens are migrating to Snapchat and Instagram. But they are also frequently using messaging apps wherein you can send texts, pictures, and videos. The NORC study mentioned above also found that approximately 90% of teens use the regular text messaging function on their cell phone, 40% also use messaging apps like Ki, WhatsApp, or Line.

  • Kik is one popular alternative to SMS texting. Rather than a phone number, all you need to do is create a username (which you don’t have to reveal). Then you can send texts, pictures, video, virtual greeting cards, and more. There is also a ton of other content that can be accessed from within the app itself.
  • Facebook-owned WhatsApp lets you post status updates, send video, share your location, and make voice or video calls over the internet. You can also send texts, of course. Since its acquisition by Facebook in 2014, WhatsApp has grown to 1.3 billion users.
  • Line is text, video, and voice-messaging app that integrates social media functions like games and group chats. There are teen-friendly stickers and emoticons, plus the video calls and texting are free.
  • YikYak is also still very popular. A geographically-based anonymous-chat app, it lets users send photos and messages to people near their current location. Teens can reference teachers or other students and other users will likely know who they are talking about. Teens feel free to be completely candid since it’s anonymous.


(Source: TechCrunch)

While Facebook is so far still somewhat strong with the under-18 group, teens are craving a virtual place they can go to be with only their friends, away from the prying eyes of parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, and teachers. Enter what Business Insider has coined “digital hangouts.” Apps such as Houseparty enable users to video chat with several friends at the same time. More than 60% of users on Houseparty are under 24 years old. And there are a whopping 1.2 million daily users.

The latest teen app phenomenon, Houseparty is leading the way for this new kind of social networking that makes it the closes thing to being with friends IRL. Houseparty happens Live and with up to eight people. Different than Google Hangouts, with Houseparty rather than request people to join you, once you go online you are instantly a part of the party with any other friends who also have the app open. It’s a space where teens (and young adults) enjoy socializing, relaxing or goofing off without the watchful eye of parents. (When I was a kid we went to the mall….today people livestream. *shrugs*)

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Facebook’s dominance is extraordinary and its monthly users are rising due to the increased adoption by older folks,  but it is not the most important network if you’re trying to reach a younger demographic. Social media sites are not the only arena where people can connect with others online. Hopefully this piece has made you realize the importance of general messaging apps, messaging app that automatically delete sent messages, and apps that allow people to anonymously chat – particularly if you are trying to reach the marketer-coveted 12-17 age group.

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