Teens & Social: What’s the Latest?

April 21, 2015

This article is included in these additional categories:

Digital | Social Media | Teens & Younger

PiperJaffray-Teens-Most-Important-Social-Network-Apr2015Instagram remains the most important social network to teens, widening its lead over Facebook and Instagram, according to the latest semi-annual teen survey from Piper Jaffray. But recent data [pdf] from the Pew Internet & American Life Project suggests that Facebook is still the most popular and frequently-used platform by this demographic.

Looking first at the Piper Jaffray survey, the results indicate that:

  • Instagram is the “most important” social network to the largest proportion (32%) of teens surveyed, up a couple of points from a year earlier;
  • Twitter continues to be the second-most important social network, cited by 24%; and
  • Facebook (14%) is narrowly ahead of Snapchat (13%) for the third spot.

It’s interesting to see Snapchat – identified for the first time in the survey – rivaling Facebook in the survey results. Its inclusion appears to have diluted the share of respondents citing Facebook or Twitter as their most important, although it had no such effect on the results for Instagram, further cementing that platform’s popularity with this sample demographic.

The previous survey from Piper Jaffray (released in October 2014) had reported just 4% of teens using Snapchat, a surprising result given that network’s growing popularity with youth. In that survey, Instagram was the most popular social network, used by 76% of teens, ahead of Twitter (59%) and Facebook (45%).

A more recent survey – from the Pew Internet & American Life Project – comes up with some different conclusions. According to those results, Facebook is the most popular social network, used by 71% of 13-17-year-olds, ahead of Instagram (52%) and Snapchat (41%). Twitter lies further back, tied with Google+ and used by one-third of teens.

In fact, not only is Facebook the most broadly used network, per the Pew survey (which was released earlier this month), but it’s also the most frequently used. Asked which social network they use most often, 41% of teens surveyed cited Facebook, double the share citing Instagram (20%) and almost quadruple the proportion pointing to Snapchat (11%).


It’s certainly possible that Facebook is the most frequently used platform but not the most important, although that reading rests on a level of semantics that some might not be comfortable with. More likely is that the differences owe to variations in the samples and methodology. The Piper Jaffray survey, for example, notes an average age of 16.3 among its respondents, meaning that its sample base is likely older than Pew’s respondents, who ranged from 13 to 17 years of age. (Still, the Pew study finds Facebook to be the most frequently used by more older than younger teens..!) The Piper Jaffray survey also contains a healthy sub-segment of wealthy teens, and the Pew survey shows that Facebook is far less popular – and Snapchat more popular – among higher-income teens.

In sum, it’s probably safe to assume that Facebook-owned properties (whether Facebook or Instagram) are among the most popular with teens, with Snapchat very much in the conversation. Twitter’s position seems a little more difficult to ascertain, although it’s clearly in the top 4. It will be interesting to see the next edition of Piper Jaffray’s survey now that they are including Snapchat as an option.

About the Data: Piper Jaffray’s “Taking Stock With Teens” survey is a semi-annual research project comprised of gathering input from approximately 6,200 teens with an average age of 16.3 years. Teen spending patterns, fashion trends, and brand and media preferences were assessed through visits to a geographically diverse subset of high schools across the U.S.

The Pew survey was administered online by the GfK Group using its KnowledgePanel, in English and Spanish, to a nationally representative sample of 1060 teens ages 13 to 17 and a parent or guardian from September 25 to October 9, 2014 and February 10 to March 16, 2015. In the fall data collection, 1016 parent-teen pairs were interviewed. The survey was re-opened in the spring and 44 pairs were added to the sample. The second data collection was targeted toward African-American parents and teenagers, with the intent of increasing the number of African-American teens in the sample to reportable levels.

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