Facebook has lost its cool, but isn't experiencing an exodus of young users. If you've paid attention to the news over the holidays, you may have seen reports that teens have all but abandoned the world's largest social media service. Now those reports have been clarified, corrected and, with the help of a new Pew Internet report, augmented with additional insights.
The latest Pew report on U.S. social media usage shows Facebook is still popular with online adults and has the largest market share by a wide margin. The percent of online adults using Facebook rose to 71% in 2013 from 67% in 2012. LinkedIn is second with 22% of online adults, up from 20% in 2012. Pinterest jumped to 21% from 15%. Twitter rose to 18% from 16%. Instagram jumped to 17% from 13%.
Facebook also has the most frequent visitors, according to Pew. Facebook has the highest level of engagement with 63% of users visiting the site at least once a day. Instagram and Twitter also have high levels of engagement: 57% of Instagram users visit at least once a day (35% visit multiple times a day) and 46% of Twitter users visit every day (29% visit multiple times per day).
Many Americans are not dedicated to just one social media service. Forty-two percent of online adults surveyed use two or more social media sites while 36% use just one. If a person uses just one social media sites, it's likely to be Facebook. Of those that use just one social media site, 84% use Facebook, 8% use professional network LinkedIn, 4% use Pinterest and 2% use either Instagram or Twitter. The remaining 22% of adults surveyed do not use one of the five services covered in the survey.
Of particular interest is Pew's data on young adults. Although the Pew survey doesn't cover teens, nor does it break down demographic usage in fine detail, it clearly shows that some services are relatively popular with young adults. Instagram, used by just 17% of all online adults, is used by 37% of adults age 18-to-29. Usage of Instagram falls to 18% for adults age 30 to 49, 6% for adults age 50 to 64 and 1% for adults age 65 and over.
The data show only a small number of young adults -- at best -- have stopped using Facebook over the last year. Pew found that Facebook usage by adults age 18 to 29 fell slightly to 84% in this year from 86% in 2012. Since each survey received feedback from fewer than 200 online adults in this age group, the decline does not have much statistic significance. The numbers do suggest that Facebook usage has reached a plateau and may have peaked.
Contrary to the tone and content of a recent report at the Guardian, it has been Facebook's perceived coolness by young people, not its actual usage by those consumers, which has taken a hit. The Guardian described research by an academic project called the Global Social Media Impact Study that covers eight European countries. That article was spawned from an article at The Conversation by Professor Dan Miller, the leader of the academic project, and focused on a passage in which Miller called Facebook "dead and buried" to teens from 16 to 18 in the United Kingdom.
But the Guardian got it wrong, and Facebook isn't dead to teens. As Miller himself explained Tuesday in a blog post, Facebook isn't doomed. While teens no longer view Facebook as being cool, it's a primary tool for keeping in touch with family members. Teens may not like using a social media service also used by their parents, but it doesn't necessarily mean they will stop using it.
Instead, teens and young adults are communicating with peers on other services. Numbers released by Pew last month say 26% of adults age 18 to 29 with mobile phones use Snapchat, compared to 5% of adults age 30 to 49 and 3% of adults age 50 to 64. Miller also notes that Facebook has expanded to other sites -- it owns the site on the rise with teens and young adults, Instagram -- and is deepening its penetration to other age groups.