Several years ago, Facebook became the new MySpace when it rose to where it is now: the top social networking site. But results of a survey measuring teenage interest in social networks indicates that now Facebook might have to be the one to figure out how to stay cool with the younger crowd.
The new research from Piper Jaffray, which focuses on the teen market, reports that 33 percent of 5,200 teens surveyed listed Facebook as their most important social network. Though that number is still good enough to make Facebook number one in the survey, the site has dropped 9 percentage points since the fall 2012 report, in which 42 percent of teens rated it their most important social network.
- New market research aimed at the teenage demographic rates Facebook at the top in the "Most Important Social Network" category (33%) for Spring 2013, but the site has taken a 9 percent dip since the last semi-annual survey (42% in Fall 2012).
Twitter was ranked second, with 30 percent of teens saying it's their most important social tool. Instagram and Tumblr received 17 and 4 percent of the vote, respectively. Twitter, Instagram and Tumblr also each enjoyed increases over fall 2012. The bright spot for Facebook may be that Instagram, which the company purchased for $1 billion last year, showed a 5 percent jump -- the largest increase of all the social networks.
Besides Facebook, the only other service to show a decrease in interest was Google+, which was down to 5 percent from 6 percent in Fall 2012. Pinterest was unchanged at 2 percent.
Though Twitter is a close second behind Facebook in this survey, teen interest seems to be splintering among a number of other services. A recent Reuters report found that many teens are using messaging services like Kik and Snapchat in lieu of Facebook.
One teen told Reuters that using Kik is faster when sharing things like YouTube clips. "It's easy. You can flip in and out of Kik."
Piper Jaffray listed Kik and Spapchat in the top five "write-in" answers teens gave for social media sites.
Other social networks on the horizon like Pheed are also gaining steam with the younger set for reasons beyond just convenience. Part of the draw of Pheed has been the service's copyright system, which allows content creators to watermark the photos and videos they share on the social network. Younger users also go on other networks like Pheed to create smaller, clicker social networks. Pheed told ABC News that 84 percent of its users were between the ages of 15 and 24. In February, Pheed's iOS app was the number one free social networking app in Apple's App Store.
There is a bit more bad news for Facebook in Piper Jaffray's report. Numbers show that teens prefer iOS or the iPhone or the iPad over Android phones or tablets. In the "What O/S Is Likely To Be On Your Next Phone?" category, 59 percent of teens said iOS and only 21 percent said Android.
Android is, of course, the operating system that runs Facebook's new "Home" software, the immersive Facebook experience that features full screen Cover Feed photos and a new pop-up messaging feature called Chat Heads.
So is it time for Facebook to panic? It looks like the company is already aware of the challenge.
In the company's public 10-K annual report with the Securities and Exchanges Committee this February, Facebook included this statement: "We believe that some of our users, particularly our younger users, are aware of and actively engaging with other products and services similar to, or as a substitute for, Facebook."
"For example, we believe that some of our users have reduced their engagement with Facebook in favor of increased engagement with other products and services such as Instagram," the company wrote. "In the event that our users increasingly engage with other products and services, we may experience a decline in user engagement and our business could be harmed."
However, CEO of Facebook Mark Zuckerberg, isn't worried about that right now. When asked at last week's Facebook "Home" launch about the reports of the declining teen demographic, he said, "The engagement we see is good and we are quite happy with it."