Facebook may have a budding problem on its hands with its teenagers, suggests a report released Tuesday by Pew Research Center.
Teens expressed waning enthusiasm for Facebook in focus groups, according to Pew, saying they disliked the growing number of adults on the site, were annoyed by “inane” status updates, and viewed the drama commonly played out on Facebook as draining. Finally, managing their reputation on Facebook was stressful they said.
Teens seemed to be far more favorably disposed toward Twitter than in the past, Pew found. Twenty-four percent of online teens said they used Twitter, up from 16 percent in 2011.
Despite those observations, Pew’s findings do not suggest an immediate and massive exodus of teenagers from Facebook. They are still very present on the site, with 94 percent of online teens maintaining an active page, the report acknowledges. They also maintain a larger footprint on it, compared to Twitter: A typical teen Facebook user has 300 friends, while the typical teen Twitter user has 79 followers.
Nevertheless, the direction of the trend does not bode well for Facebook, according to Robert Epstein, senior research psychologist at the American Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology and author of the book Teen 2.0.
“That 94 percent figure doesn’t mean much,” he told TechNewsWorld. “It’s only the trend that counts, and it’s clearly moving away from Facebook.”
Facebook will continue to lose appeal with teens, predicted Epstein, for two reasons: 1) Teen culture views parents and adults as the enemy, and as it happens, parents and adults have joined Facebook in droves; and 2) Teen culture wants everything to be new, and Facebook is rapidly becoming old.
“The same thing happened to Myspace,” he said. “It’s also why Yahoo, out of desperation, just bought Tumblr.”
Brands that use Facebook to reach teens should not panic however, Teresa Caro, SVP for social and content marketing at Engauge, told TechNewsWorld.
“Just because teens may be moving away from Facebook, that doesn’t mean everyone is moving away from Facebook,” she said. “And it doesn’t mean teens are moving away from Facebook right away.”
Facebook, while waning, is still the most important social channel for teens, Caro noted, pointing to recent research from Piper Jaffray. “Approximately 53 percent of females and 52 percent of males indicated that social media impacts their purchases, with Facebook being the most important, followed closely by Twitter and Instagram.”
However, that research also captured a declining enthusiasm for Facebook, she observed, with 33 percent citing it as the most important social channel, down from 42 percent six months ago.
Marketers aren’t waiting around to learn what Facebook’s ultimate fate will be — they have already glommed onto Twitter, in light of its growing popularity.
Connecticut College, for example, has noticed a growth in Twitter use among prospective students, who are typically 16-18 years old — and it sees that as a great opportunity to engage them, Josh Jensen, director of marketing communications, told TechNewsWorld.
“Students may be using Facebook just as much, but because it is a private medium, we don’t know that,” he pointed out. “Twitter is public, making the growth in its use by teens more evident to us — and perhaps to other organizations and companies hoping to engage this demographic.”
As a result, the college has worked Twitter into its admissions marketing strategy.
“In the last year, we have created a new Twitter feed, @conncollegelive, to capture the activity of campus,” said Jensen.
“We have launched a series of Google+ Hangouts promoted on Twitter and which allow prospective students to submit questions on Twitter — and all of our admission staff have created Twitter handles and are tweeting,” he added.
Bottom line — Facebook isn’t going anywhere in the near or even medium term, but Twitter is on a tear.
“Yes, teens are cooling toward Facebook, but when you think about it, tens of millions — perhaps hundreds of millions — of teens use Facebook” Larry Weintraub, CEO of Fanscape, told TechNewsWorld.
“There are still a lot of teens who are using Facebook,” he emphasized, “and it’s up to Facebook to continue to attract them — as they’re trying to do with the purchase of Instagram.”