Since its initial public offering in May 2012, Facebook started having trouble convincing investors that it is still relevant with young people — mostly teenagers. Studies showed that users aged 12-17 were defecting from the social network in droves, and that about 25% of people in that age range had dropped off between January 2011 and January 2014. But new research from Forrester points to Facebook’s maintained relevance with teens — good news for the social network if the numbers indicate continued trends.
VISUAL CONTEXT: TEEN FACEBOOK USE
Forrester polled 4,517 web users in the U.S. between the ages of 12 and 17, and found that Facebook is still the top option for teens on the internet. Analyst Nate Elliott wrote:
More than three-quarters of online youth use Facebook–twice as many as [those who] use Pinterest or Tumblr or Snapchat, and more than [the number of teens who] use Instagram and [WhatsApp] combined. And 28% of young users who are on Facebook say they use it ‘all the time,’ a higher percentage than said about any other social network.
Analysts speculate that part of the reason teens began to leave Facebook years ago was because of the availability of newer, sleeker social networks. Instagram and Twitter supplanted Facebook as the favored option for young people — especially once Facebook became popular with people their parents’ ages. Teens have gravitated towards social outlets with initial followings of people their own ages, and — in the case of Snapchat — with the capabilities of leaving no trace of data. (Although, Snapchat has recently come under fire in the U.S. for not being entirely truthful with its users about the storage of their data.)
But even these solid numbers from Forrester about Facebook’s maintained relevance do not necessarily mean the challenge is over for the social network. The company’s COO Sheryl Sandberg pointed out in December 2013:
One of the challenges we face right now is that we’re a decade old. That means that we’re not the newest. And often, particularly in our space, newer things are shinier and cooler. And what Mark [Zuckerberg] has said and what we all believe is that we’re not trying to be the coolest. And we’re not trying to be the newest. We’re trying to be the most useful. I think if you look at the way teenagers continue to use Facebook, we are useful to them.
And the company has tried to revamp its appeal to younger users, adding features, creating a more mobile-friendly approach, and redesigning parts of itself every year or so. As much as Facebook’s naysayers like to decry its prowess in the world of social media, and as much as others like to play around with projections about the network’s decline, numbers point to Facebook’s continued dominance in the social landscape. Even despite its ban in certain countries, users continue to gravitate towards the 1.2 billion+ site.