Social Media Research, Social Media Research

New Data Demonstrates Teens are Not Abandoning Facebook

badge-researchThere have been innumerable posts and articles about how Facebook is no longer “cool,” or as important to teens as it once was.

Frustratingly, however, much of the speculation I’ve seen regarding this has been based either upon anecdotal evidence, or upon research that isn’t projectable to the population of teen Facebook users.

So, I decided to take a look at some hard facts. According to our most recent public data release (The Infinite Dial 2014), Facebook is currently used by nearly 80% of Americans 12-17 and 18-24 (and you can learn more about our sampling methodology here.) In fact, articles that trumpet Facebook’s lack of growth with these demographics are missing the point—Facebook is nearing its practical limit with young Americans.

Figure 1

Now, it may or may not be true that Facebook is no longer “cool” with teens (a question Mark Zuckerberg doesn’t appear to be the least concerned about, by the way). I would submit that this is the wrong question. Think about the other services and mobile apps that teens and young adults use—how do you think they are logging in to them? Facebook’s “helpful” management of our identities for services like Instagram ensures that for millions of people, Facebook is the plumbing for the Internet. And while there may indeed be teens quitting the service, every minute someone new turns 13 and signs up for an account.

A Facebook account is the new driver’s license. Getting one isn’t cool—it’s what you can do with it that is.

Those who believe teens are leaving Facebook in droves should also consider this stat—the average number of Facebook friends per demographic:

Figure 2

So, to be clear, when we say that teens are abandoning Facebook, we are saying that they are willing to leave behind a network that averages 500-600 people, with no easy way to replicate it elsewhere. Cool? No. Plumbing? Yes.

Finally, it may in fact be a valid observation that teens are using the service less. But here is what I can show you—we asked Americans 12+ who have a profile on Facebook how many times in the last 24 hours they checked their Facebook page (either via desktop or mobile.) Here’s what they told us.

Figure 3

What this graph tells us is that teens on Facebook check their accounts an average of eight times per day. Is this a lot? Well, I can tell you that when we asked this question in 2012, the average for teens was six times per day. Teens lead the pack in terms of frequency of usage, and that frequency is increasing, not decreasing. What else do Teens do eight times per day besides eat?

I will note that the rise of mobile Facebook access and the concomitant use of a smartphone’s notification system to take the place of an actual Facebook page visit may have cut down on the actual time spent with the service—but there is no credible data extant to suggest that, yet. And again, let me stipulate that Facebook might in fact be “less cool” than it used to be.

But for millions of teens across America and in many parts of the world, Facebook is the single most formidable brand in the world—and that’s unlikely to change in the short term. 

Article Name
New Data Demonstrates Teens are Not Abandoning Facebook
According to recent public data release (The Infinite Dial 2014), Facebook is currently used by nearly 80% of Americans 12-17 and 18-24. While newer services like Instagram and Snapchat have surged past some other social networking sites and services with teens, Facebook still has the lead in user base, and not by a little.
  • RedSlice

    Fantastic! Thanks for sharing the data and the facts around this hot button issue.

  • Roger Hurni

    This is great info. I love how well thought out your information is. Nice job.

  • Betsy Kent – BeVisible

    Great info and I’m not surprised. There’s a lot of Facebook bashing going around, mostly from people who don’t use it! I noticed recently that my 24 year old, although he SAYS he doesn’t use Facebook, logs on at least 3x/day. Yes, he’s my Facebook friend!

  • Vincent Orleck

    Absolutely this is the case, totally agree. Also…lets not forget that Facebook OWNS Instagram. So in reality, add those numbers in as well.

    See you at #SMMW14!

  • Jamie Turner

    Hi Tom —

    Thanks for sharing the data. It looks like it’s well-supported and well-researched.

    Quick question — can you let us know the sample size of the survey? I had done a similar study but never shared the results because the sample size was too small to be anything other than anecdotal.

    Also, as a side note, I wonder at what point Facebook should start worrying about teens. As an example, Pepsi probably isn’t worried that Americans are drinking fewer soft drinks — after all, Pepsi’s global sales are huge. But at a certain point, someone at Pepsi needs to say, “Yes, we only saw a 1% decline in U.S. beverage sales last year, but it adds up!”

    Perhaps someone at Facebook should be saying the same thing.

    All that said, I enjoyed your post. Let’s catch up at SMMW14.


    • Tom Webster

      Thanks, Jamie–full methods statement can be found at the second link in the post. I won’t be at SMMW14, though everybody seems to think I will be!

      • Jamie Turner

        Thanks, Tom. We’ll miss you!

  • Scott Ayres

    Interesting to finally see some stats going against what most have been saying about teens and Facebook.

    • Tom Webster

      Well, I am sure there are some teens that are using Facebook less. But, you know, we humans make new teens every day.

  • Jason HJH

    Thanks, it underlines what I believed in for a long time now. Facebook isn’t cool but it is an integral part of people’s lives now.

    • Tom Webster

      At nearly 80% penetration with teens? It’s as essential as the phone.

  • Julia Levy

    Someone pointed out to me that Facebook usage also reflects how people’s lives change as they get older – friends and family move around and Facebook offers a powerful way to stay in touch. This isn’t so important when people are younger so other platforms may be better at meeting their immediate needs. The variation in behaviour at different age groups doesn’t mean that Facebook is dying – as people may well see its benefits as they get older and go back to using it more.

    • Rhen Wilson

      I love that. That’s a great way to think about it, and it’s very true. As someone who got on Facebook as a teen, that is what the network has certainly become for me.

    • Tom Webster

      That’s a super point! It is hard to put the genie back in the bottle, though–and new platforms may yet emerge that fill the role for future teens that Facebook fills for us today. Of course, like Instagram, those new platforms will eventually sell to Facebook :)

  • Rhen Wilson

    Thanks for sharing these findings. I’ve had several clients panic over this topic, and it’s been a little burdensome to talk them down without opposing data. However, I’ve been explaining it like this:

    To teen users, Facebook is like their home. It may not be the coolest place in town, but it’s where they keep all their stuff, it’s where they know everyone, and it’s their base. There may be cool places to go (and go often) like new apps and fads, but Facebook will always (at least for the foreseeable future) be the place they come back to.

    • Tom Webster

      Yeah, I think that’s about right. Also, many teens made the near-irreversable mistake of friending their parents.

      • Rhen Wilson

        Ha. Too true.

  • Erica Sweeney- Tulane

    Facebook has become such an integral part of communicating
    and socializing that if teens were not to have a Facebook, they would risk
    missing out on key events in their social life. There is a Facebook group for
    every activity that people do and that’s how most of the communication is done.
    I think the difference that could make Facebook not “cool” is the variety of
    other social media sites there are to use. While they need a Facebook, what
    could make them cool is having a lot of followers on Twitter or Instagram or
    using snapchat. Regardless, teens will continue to use Facebook for a long time
    because of the cost to their social lives if they didn’t.