New Report on Teen Social Media Use Underlines the Rise of TikTok, and the Fall of Facebook

Another new report on teen social media usage, and another confirmation that TikTok is the dominant platform of the moment among the youth, while Facebook continues its downward slide in the broader relevance stakes.

That’s according to the latest data from Pew Research, which surveyed over 1,300 US teens and their parents between April and May this year, in order to glean more insight into which platforms are the main focus for young audiences, and how much time they’re spending in each app.

As explained by Pew:

“[The survey] of American teenagers ages 13 to 17 finds TikTok is now a top social media platform for teens, with some 67% of teens saying they ever use TikTok, and 16% of all teens saying they use it almost constantly. Meanwhile, the share of teens who say they use Facebook, a dominant social media platform among teens in the Center’s 2014-15 survey, has plummeted from 71% then to 32% today.

Pew Research teen social media use

As you can see in this chart, YouTube still leads the way among teen users, with 95% of all teens regularly using the app. But TikTok is now the clear second in line, while Facebook’s popularity has fallen off in the teen popularity stakes.

That’s no big surprise. Meta’s own internal research has shown that both Facebook and Instagram have seen declines among younger audiences of late, which has seen Meta put more of a focus on developing tools for younger audiences specifically. That’s why we’re now seeing a bigger push on Reels and Stories, which has definitely seen Reels usage increase, but it’s also seen the company go too hard on some elements, which it recently scaled back after poor user response.

There’s no doubt that TikTok is adding new levels of pressure on Meta’s development teams, and these stats further underline just how significant the platform has become, and highlight the scope of the challenge that Meta now has in keeping Facebook relevant, as younger users continue to turn away from the app in big numbers.

Because while older users will definitely keep Facebook going, it’s younger audiences that dictate the next big trends and shifts. And while Meta doesn’t necessarily need Facebook to be a top priority in this respect, it does need its metaverse push to take hold with the youth, in order to maximize adoption and resonance.

Part of the company’s ‘Meta’ re-brand is about distancing these two elements, so that even if Facebook itself isn’t popular anymore, its VR tools can be viewed as separate. But inevitably, they will be linked, and it’s in Meta’s best interests to maintain Facebook’s youth appeal, as best it can, to help usher in the next stage.

Which will be a challenge, based on these new figures.

The same trend is also reflected in the usage stats, with YouTube, TikTok and Snapchat seeing far more regular engagement than Facebook.

Pew Research teen social media use

Of course, Instagram is still up there, and it’s still a popular platform in many respects. But the numbers for Facebook are pretty bleak:

Pew Research teen social media use

Then again, Twitter is also pretty far down this chart, and really, it does seem that these ‘legacy’ social media networks are losing their appeal with younger audiences, as video platforms gain more attention, and alter user attention spans and habitual behaviors in entirely new ways.

That’s why we now see so much replication between apps, because it’s not just that youngsters are spending more time on TikTok, it’s that the rapid-fire nature of media consumption in the app is changing expectations and approaches entirely, which renders other, more traditional content formats obsolete in some respects   

In other words, the popularity of TikTok is essentially forcing other apps to play catch-up, because it’s evolving how people view what content should be. Those that don’t look to move into line with these trends will eventually lose out – so really, it’s likely less of a conscious choice to copy TikTok and other popular apps, as it is a necessary shift to keep up with changing user behaviors.

In terms of gender split, Pew’s data also shows that female users are more aligned with TikTok, Instagram and Snapchat, while male teens are more connected to Twitch, Reddit and YouTube.

Pew Research teen social media use

These are some important demographic insights for your marketing planning, which could help to dictate your holiday campaigns and experiments to see what results you get.

Also, social media is now seen as a need for many:

Pew Research teen social media use

That, in itself, is likely cause for concern, but the data underlines the critical, connective role that social media now plays in our modern interactive process, and conversely, why it’s now such a powerful medium for promotion and connection.

It’s an interesting snapshot of the current market, and how young users align themselves with different social media apps. Which, again, could be great for your planning, and if you are looking to reach young audiences, you should definitely be taking note of these stats.

You can check out Pew Research’s full ‘Teens, Social Media and Technology 2022’ report here.

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