Oct. 25, 2013 at 2:43 PM ET
Facebook, like your parents, hasn't been cool for a while. You know it. Teens know it. Even Facebook knows it.
"We’re almost 10 years old so we’re definitely not a niche thing any more so that kind of angle for coolness is done for us," Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg said just last month at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. Facebook, in its July report to stockholders, noted that losing younger Facebook members to competing social networks is a known problem.
Now there's even more statistics to support what you and Zuck already know in your heart: Twitter toppled Facebook as "most important" social site among teens, making the former long-standing champion No. 2. That's according to the semi-annual teen market report from investment management firm Piper Jaffray.
With 26 percent of the teens surveyed choosing Twitter, and 23 percent going with Facebook, the difference doesn't seem like a big one, until you notice how far Facebook's fallen since its all time high of 42 percent teen preference, way way back in 2012. (About 200 years in Internet time.) If this all seems freakishly familiar, it's because Pew Research offered up similar stats in its May report on teens and social media, noting a "waning enthusiasm" for Facebook among U.S. teens.
It's not like Facebook — still the world's largest social network — isn't trying. There's a lot at stake. And by a lot, we mean disposable income.
Just last week, Facebook granted 13- to 17-year-olds the ability to share posts publicly and invite Twitter-style followers. Previously, teens were limited to sharing no further than friends of friends. Facebook presented this new freedom as a reward, stating on its blog that "whether it comes to civic engagement, activism, or their thoughts on a new movie, [teens] want to be heard." Left unsaid is the very important fact that advertisers want to hear teens, and use what that info sell them stuff.
Statistics are fun — they give anyone and everyone a chance to play armchair social scientist. We get to diagnose the alleged ills of America's youth as we posit where they might be hiding on the Internet (or why). Sure, kids aren't deleting those Facebook profiles that are on full view of Mom and Dad, but Pew points out they're increasingly on anonymous social sites as well.
What ever are they doing? Sexting on Snapchat? Cyberbullying on Ask.fm? Building Tumblr shrines to age-and-occupation-inappropriate porn star James Deen?
Yes, yes. All these things are true, and at least to some extent not worthy of hysteria. But really, there are only two hard facts civilians can take away from such reports: the fickle nature of teens ('twas ever thus) and capitalism's need to Lojack the little brats, on account of them having the mad disposable income of their own and their parent's wallets combined. While we worry about what teens are doing, those with money in the game worry about how teens are spending.
Advertising is, after all, how social media sites such as Facebook and Twitter make money. According to the Piper Jaffray report — which is about how teens spend money — "more than half of teens indicate that social media impacts their purchases, with Twitter being the most important, eclipsing Facebook, followed closely by Instagram." Now guess why Facebook paid $1 billion for Instagram, which starts rolling out advertising next week.
Instagram — that's the third most important social media site for teens, according Piper Jaffray. With 23 percent of teens surveyed choosing Instagram as No. 1, the photo-sharing social service is up from 17 percent in Spring, neck-and-neck with its new owner and growing fast. Kids love to share the photos! That's good news for the self-proclaimed uncool Facebook ... at least in a universe where Snapchat — the youth-associated ephemeral photo-sharing app which transmits 350 million "snaps" daily — doesn't exist.
That's the thing about capitalism ... it's just so darn competitive!