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Is There Really a Teen Exodus from Facebook?

A Reality Check for Facebook Contrarians

Millions of teenagers are leaving Facebook. Teens think Facebook is lame and meaningless. Young people are abandoning Facebook for other social networks. These are just a few of the panicked conclusions from articles in the past couple years covering teenager engagement trends on Facebook. With such press highlights, you might plausibly assume that there’s a mass exodus of teens from Facebook. You’d be wrong.

The truth is that teens use Facebook more than any other platform. comScore’s recent analysis highlights that teens use Facebook more than twice as much as the next top platforms, Instagram (which Facebook owns) and Snapchat.

Age 18-34 Digital Audience Penetration vs. Engagement of Leading Social Networks

Yes, it’s true that Facebook may no longer have the same cool factor it possessed when it was exclusive to college studies. Some teens may be embarrassed to be associated with using Facebook, but as Recode recently noted, “Millennials who claim they don’t use Facebook are probably lying.”

The latest industry data backs up Recode’s theory. Andrew Lipsman, VP of Marketing and Insights at comScore notes: “You hear the narrative that young people are fleeing Facebook. The data show that’s just not true. Younger users have a wider appetite for social media, and they spend a lot of time on multiple networks. But they spend more time on Facebook by a wide margin.” While comScore’s analysis focuses on older teens and millennials, the Pew Research Center found that Facebook is the most popular and frequently used platform for teens ages 13-17 by a significant margin.

Looking at content consumption more broadly, Naytev’s own research shows that Facebook is increasingly and overwhelmingly where people consume content most (see Facebook is King, Other Networks Fight for Scraps).

News coverage of social media behavior changes often conflates two arguments: (1) teens use an increasingly diverse set of social platforms; and (2) Facebook is weakened by teens using more platforms.

It’s very true that platform diversification is on the rise; this is a natural trend given the rise of many platforms that excel in forms of communication that Facebook doesn’t. However, platform diversification doesn’t necessarily undermine usage of any given platform since teens are increasing the overall time spent on social. As long as the daily time spent on social platforms continues to grow, competing for attention isn’t zero-sum.

This recent New York Times headline says it all: Facebook Has 50 Minutes of Your Time Each Day. It Wants More. And Facebook is getting more. The 50 minutes/day Faceebook commands today is 25% greater than the 40 minutes/day it commanded in 2014. The attention pie is growing, and Facebook is quickly taking a bigger slice.

Facebook actually stands to benefit from diversification, having already expanded into messaging (Facebook Messenger WhatsApp), photos (Instagram), videos (Facebook Live), and virtual reality (Oculus Rift).

Facebook isn’t dying, and platform diversification is creating exciting new growth opportunities. The key for brands and publishers is to focus where teens spend most of their time: Snapchat, Instagram, and above all others, Facebook.