Teenage social media users deserting Facebook for Snapchat

Facebook is losing the battle for young users to Snapchat, but Instagram is set to come to the rescue of the world's largest social media network.

teenage social media users

Facebook is about to see a decline among teens and young adults, according to a forecast from eMarketer. It’ll be the first time the research firm has predicted a fall in Facebook usage for any age group.

Facebook’s community of monthly users in the US will grow 2.4 per cent this year to 172.9 million people, a figure slightly higher than previously forecast due to increased adoption by older age groups.

But the world’s largest social network will experience a decline in monthly users among the 12 to 17 age group, which is set to fall 3.4 per cent year-on-year to 14.5 million people. This will make a second consecutive year of expected usage declines from this demographic and one that will have risen from the 1.2 per cent drop seen in 2016.

On top of that, monthly Facebook usage among the 18 to 24 group will grow more slowly than previously forecast.

Despite overall growth which saw Facebook hit the 2 billion user mark this year, younger people appear to be finding fewer reasons to use it.

“Teens and tweens remaining on Facebook seem to be less engaged – logging in less frequently and spending less time on the platform,” said Oscar Orozco, a forecasting analyst at eMarketer.

“At the same time, we now have Facebook-nevers, many children aging into the tween demographic that appear to be overlooking Facebook altogether, yet still engaging with Facebook-owned Instagram.”

Snapchat rising

Perhaps unsurprisingly, eMarketer suggests that Facebook’s loss is Snapchat’s gain. The latter’s US user base is now expected to grow 25.8 per cent to 79.2 million monthly. Growth figures have been adjusted higher for all but the oldest age group, with the biggest upward revision made to the 18-24 group. That young adult cohort will see usage escalate 19.2 per cent this year.

Similarly, monthly Instagram usage in the US will grow 23.8 per cent in 2017, a rate higher than previously forecast, to 85.5 million. Within that figure, Instagram will expand its user base among those under 12 years old by 19.0 per cent and those ages 12 to 17 by 8.8 per cent.

READ MORE: Snapchat marketing campaigns: 5 great case studies that produced results

“We see teens and tweens migrating to Snapchat and Instagram. Both platforms have found success with this demographic since they are more aligned with how they communicate – that is, using visual content,” said Orozco.

“Facebook is fortunate that it owns Instagram, which remains a strong platform for teens,” added eMarketer principal analyst Debra Aho Williamson. “Although usage of the main Facebook app is declining among teens, marketers will still be able to reach them on Instagram.”

And in the UK?

As in the US, more than a quarter of the UK’s population will log on to Instagram at least monthly in 2017. In total, 16.7 million people in the UK will use the platform each month this year, an increase of 34.8 per cent over 2016.

Snapchat won’t be far behind, with 21.1 per cent of the population — or 14 million people — logging on at least once per month in 2017. As with Instagram, Snapchat has enjoyed strong growth—it almost doubled its user base between 2015 and 2016, and is expected to see a further increase of 20.2% this year.

READ MORE: Snapchat marketing: 11 tips for promoting your brand

Facebook, with an estimated 32.5 million monthly active users this year, will remain the most popular social network in the UK. However, as noted above, it is losing share to Snapchat and Instagram among younger age groups. Among those ages 12 to 17 and 18 to 24, Facebook’s user totals will decline by 2.8 per cent and 3.1 per cent respectively in 2017.

“Facebook is still the big winner in social media,” said Bill Fisher, eMarketer’s UK senior analyst. “But it will be slightly concerned that younger people in the UK are having their heads turned by Snapchat.

“Of course, Facebook’s ownership of Instagram is softening the blow, and it will be further enthused to see Instagram’s longer-term prospects looking even better than Snapchat’s.”

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