Facebook’s Popularity Continues to Drop Among US Youth. What Are Zuckerberg’s Plans?

March 20, 2019

This article is included in these additional categories:

Demographics & Audiences | Digital | Featured | Social Media | Teens & Younger | Youth & Gen X

Facebook usage in the US continues its steady decline, survey data says. The latest Infinite Dial report from Edison Research and Triton Digital reveals that 61% of respondents ages 12 and older report using Facebook, down from a peak of 67% in 2017. But while Facebook usage is on the decline, Instagram is rising.

Facebook is of course still the dominant social media brand: it’s used the most often by more than half (52%) of respondents, despite this percentage dropping from 57% from last year.

Instagram and Snapchat are posing a threat to Facebook’s stronghold. As Facebook recedes, Instagram and Snapchat popularity are creeping up. For example, while Instagram was the most used social media brand by just 7% of respondents in 2015, that percentage has more than doubled  to 16% this year.

So what is Facebook doing to address this issue? Recent announcements show that the answer goes beyond simply adoption figures, and will look to capitalize on the strengths of each platform as well as its adoption differences across international markets.

To start, Facebook has started converging its various products and its messaging functionality. This will unify their underlying infrastructure as well as instituting end-to-end encryption across all these apps – but for marketers wondering how this will affect their plans, change is unlikely to come until next year.

Offering some insight into Facebook’s plans, Zuckerberg replied to a question on a January 2019 Facebook investor call [edited for brevity]:

“I can talk about messaging and the integration that we’re thinking about. But first, we’re really early in thinking through this… this is going to be a long-term project that I think will [head into] 2020 or beyond… There a number of cases that we see where people tell us that they want to be able to message across the different services… we need to make it so that people can communicate across the different networks and graphs that they have or be able to do that integration better in order to facilitate more transactions and connections there.”

That being said, marketers can expect a focus on e-commerce, as Zuckerberg noted that different markets use Facebook products in different ways [again edited for brevity]:

“On the consumer side, increasing commerce on Instagram, Facebook and WhatsApp, is one of the most exciting product opportunities that we have in all of these products and a big business opportunity as well… [We also] have these experiences today where we’re building Marketplace, and you go to message someone to buy something. And the link to basically do the messaging is over Messenger, but in that country, what people really want to be using is WhatsApp.”

Younger Generations are Turning to Instagram More Often

Turning back to the usage stats, last year’s Infinite Dial report showed that the decline in Facebook usage was due lower use in the 12-34 age bracket. The same holds true this year. Facebook usage among this bracket decreased another 5% points to 62%. Among Americans ages 35-54 Facebook usage has flattened out at 69% and, interestingly, usage amongst the age group 55 and older actually increased from 49% in 2018 to 53% in 2019. (Some may theorize that this latter point is at least one reason behind Facebook’s drop among youth: other platforms tend to be seen by youth as being “cool”.)

Furthering the evidence that Facebook is losing ground with 12-34-year-olds, the survey revealed that 29% of this age group use Facebook most often compared to the other social media brands — half the percentage (58%) from 2015. Instagram’s popularity, on the other hand, is growing: this year 26% of 12-34-year-olds count the image-focused platform as their most-used, up from 15% in 2015.

Marketers are seeing this shift to Instagram and increasing their advertising investment in the brand. Marin Software’s most recent benchmark report shows that Instagram’s percentage of Facebook ad spend increased considerably between Q4 2017 and Q4 2018.

More Highlights From the Report

  • WhatsApp was included for the first time in this year’s report with usage amongst all age groups at 18% and at almost one-quarter (23%) among younger respondents ages 12-34. Historically, unlike in other countries, WhatsApp use in the US has been low, though the usage figures from this latest Infinite Dial report show that it is nearly even with Twitter usage.
  • Snapchat and Pinterest tie for third for social media brand usage, at 31%, with both showing no change from last year. However, Snapchat usage amongst ages 12-24-year-olds is remaining steady at 62% for the third year in a row. Snapchat remains a favorite with teens ages 13-17.
  • The adoption rate of LinkedIn among respondents ages 12-34 has risen to 21%.

To read more, view the report here.

About the Data: The results are based on a national telephone survey conducted in January and February 2019 of 1,500 people aged 12 and older using random digit dialing techniques to both cell phones and landlines. The survey was offered in both English and Spanish and the results were weighted to national 12+ population figures.

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