Facebook is no longer a thing. Instagram and Twitter are the hip new places to be for today's teenagers, according to a semi-annual survey conducted by the research arm of Piper Jaffrays.
In the fall edition of the "Taking Stock of Teens" survey, Piper Jaffrays reports that less than half of teens surveyed, or 45 percent of the total sample size of 7,200 teens, no longer considers Facebook the go-to social network for sharing their lives' biggest milestones and their most mundane everyday thoughts. That is a significant drop from the 72 percent of teens who reported last spring that they still use Facebook.
Instead, teens are flocking to Facebook-owned image-sharing service Instagram as the preferred place to hang out online. The report says Instagram usage for teens jumped to 76 percent from 69 percent last quarter. Twitter, too, was preferred by more teens, with 59 percent using the micro-blogging platform, although the usage dropped from 63 percent from the last survey.
"This is very bad news for Facebook," says analyst Patrick Moorhead at Moor Insights & Strategy. "Facebook substitutes, like Instagram or Snapchat, seem to pop up every year, providing teenagers an alternative where they probably won't find their parents."
Dan Olds, analyst at The Gabriel Consulting Group, agrees. As older users increasingly go on Facebook, the social network is losing its appeal to teens, who don't want their parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles checking up on them for all their Facebook friends to see. That, combined with the rise of ephemeral messaging apps and anonymous alternatives such as Snapchat, Whisper and Yik Yak, where teenagers do not have to deal with the pressure of maintaining a fixed online identity, have driven the teen demographic away from the world's most popular social network.
Facebook founder and CEO Mark Zuckerberg knows this, which is why Facebook laid down $2 billion to purchase Instagram in 2012. In 2013, he even publicly acknowledged that Facebook is no longer cool.
"We're almost 10 years old so we're definitely not a niche thing anymore," he said at the time. "That kind of angle for coolness is done for us."
Instagram may help keep Facebook afloat if teens do decide to leave the parent-riddled social network for good; the picture-sharing service could serve as an ad-free bastion since it hasn't been working on its advertising efforts as aggressively as Facebook has.
If, however, Instagram decides to populate its site with more ads than most users can handle, and teens decide to flee just like what they are doing with Facebook now, then the world's biggest social network could be in trouble.
"Younger users are very fickle," says analyst Rob Enderle at Enderle Group. "They are losing their seed corn. Eventually, their audience will age out and the market will see the decline as unavoidable, collapsing their stock price and company valuation."
Other analysts believe the teen exodus does not exactly spell death for Facebook, as Facebook's market is not limited to the teen demographic but appeals to a wider worldwide audience.
"Facebook has and will in the future offer many types of online social experiences," points out analyst Brian Blau at Gartner. "Their apps and platform today is used by a very wide variety of people and businesses, and they will continue to grow as they help offline users around the world come online."