The teenage market is one of the biggest plum markets around, at least for many marketers. With most of teenagers' income being disposable thanks to having most bills taken care of by Mom and Dad, not to mention a good chunk of that income coming directly from Mom and Dad's largesse, that's a lot of room to make some oh-so-valuable sales. But a recent Piper Jaffray study suggests that Facebook may be on the way out with the teenage market, and in its place is no less than Facebook's main social rival, Twitter.
The Piper Jaffray report on the teenage market, conducted semi-annually, shows that Twitter pulled ahead of Facebook in terms of importance to teens, with 26 percent of respondents calling Twitter the “most important” social site in said teens' social networking quiver. Some 23 percent, meanwhile, gave the nod to Facebook, but that's down from a high of 42 percent.
The news is good for Twitter as a result, but any joy Twitter gets from this nod—especially welcome going into an IPO—should be tempered, potentially with the hashtag “#shortlived”. Why? Because another social network, Instagram, has been making some huge gains in the teenage market, with 23 percent calling Instagram the number one choice, and that's almost double from 12 percent just a year ago. Indeed, a 14-year-old girl provided perhaps the biggest statement of what's going on in the market, saying “I got mine (Facebook account) around sixth grade. And I was really obsessed with it for a while. Then towards eighth grade, I kind of just – once you get into Twitter, if you make a Twitter and an Instagram, then you'll just kind of forget about Facebook, is what I did.”
This news is doubtless making Facebook feel a lot less buyer's remorse around its purchase of Instagram, which is certainly tempering the losses in Facebook proper as more teens seem to be moving into Instagram instead. It provides some support to Facebook's own research, which suggests that, while teens aren't specifically abandoning Facebook, there is something of a decline, as even CEO Mark Zuckerberg recently noted “coolness is done for us.” Facebook is keeping much of that research to itself, though, and that's not exactly sitting well with some, but there seems to be a bit of a dichotomy going on between what teens are saying about Facebook and what said teens are actually doing with it.
Reports indicate that Facebook may be declining in terms of “cool”, but those who were there when it was cool likely built a social network, one that many teens are unwilling to abandon. A Pew study spells out the differences: while the median teenager has about 79 Twitter followers, a comparable teen on Facebook has around 300 friends. That's a lot of contact to not easily throw over, and may keep Facebook friends around long after the “cool” has worn off.
Still, the teenage market is a fickle beast; just ask any of a hundred musicians, and almost as many actors. Big today doesn't always mean big tomorrow, and Twitter may want to make some moves to take advantage of its current stand with more features and more options. Just where this all ends up in the near future remains to be seen, but for right now, Twitter would seem to have an opportunity on its hands.
Edited by Rory J. Thompson