From introducing popular features that appeal to young users to designing entirely new platforms exclusive to youth, social networks are fighting to engage teens. But social media’s pursuit of teens is precarious. On the one hand, teens represent a valuable segment: They are exceptionally receptive to social networks, with over half of US online 12- to 17-year-olds interested in brand content on social media, and are not yet inundated with social media ads. On the other hand, winning teens today means battling unprecedented competition: Established social networks face an image problem – 34% of US online 12- to 17-year-olds think Facebook is for “old people,” and 22% say the same about Pinterest. And concern about the harmful effects of social media on adolescents’ emotional health is mounting.
In my latest report, I apply Forrester Data’s Consumer Technographics® insights to identify which social networks are resonating with teens and why. Our data reveals that young consumers have joined and increasingly used YouTube, Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter, and Pinterest over the past three years. Facebook is the only platform whose usage and frequency rates among US teens have barely changed:
Although Facebook has already amassed a significant number of US teen users, its teenage user base has plateaued and time spent on the site remains stagnant. Meanwhile, YouTube has blown past Facebook to become teens’ most popular social network; with their steady growth, Instagram and Snapchat are now nipping at Facebook’s heels.
This trended data about teens’ social media activity reflects more than a shift in behavior – it also signals young consumers’ unique attitude toward social networks. To teens, whose world is rife with social media channels and content, the novelty is no longer about reach and breadth; it’s about differentiation, specific value, and emotional benefits. While teens regard Facebook as a utility that enables broad connection, they view other networks as the “go to” for particular experiences like entertainment, brand discovery, or intimate communication.
Marketers striving to engage young consumers must understand where teens spend their time and why. To read the full story about US online youth’s social media attitudes and behaviors, please see my latest report here.