Teens: Facebook's becoming more 'meh'

Research from Piper Jaffray suggests a declining number of teens see Facebook as their most important social network. They still, however, seem to love the iPhone.

Chris Matyszczyk
3 min read
Hey, teen, please don't go. CNET

If you say something often enough, does it become true?

For a little while, rumors that teens see Facebook in the same way they see their dad's pale, baggy jeans have been wafting around the social biosphere.

Earlier this year, a couple of slightly anecdotal studies suggested that Facebook was showing its laughter lines and that teens were moving toward exciting places like Tumblr.

Now along comes a survey from Piper Jaffray that suggests teens are increasingly giving Facebook a "meh" rating.

It's a fascinating survey -- offering moving gems such as the fact that teens spend 9 percent of their money on shoes. They do so love Olive Garden, too.

However, in the social-networking realm, tomorrow's robots seem to be having their doubts.

Facebook still plays a considerable role in their lives, but there's been a significant decline in teens believing it's their most important social network.

Only 33 percent of those who participated in the survey listed Facebook as their top choice, versus 42 percent last fall.

Despite that 9 percent plunge, Facebook still headed the list. Twitter, however, is now only 3 percentage points behind. (And it tweeted forward 3 percent in this same period.)

Instagram, now part of Facebook's happy family, came in third, enjoying a 5 percent gain, but it was still some way behind Twitter.

Fourth place Google+, with a drop of 1 point, did not seem to be breaking the Glass ceiling, or any other.

The survey's social-networking chart offered that Tumblr wandered in fifth, with a mere 1 percent gain. So perhaps it is not the threat some might imagine.

Piper Jaffray concludes from all this that teens are looking for something that's more, you know, them. The 5,200 shimmering souls who participated in the survey were given the option of writing in a favorite social site.

It's always dangerous to let kids make choices, and it's not clear how many chose that option, but the survey lists the top five write-in choices as Wanelo, Vine, Snapchat, Kik, and 4Chan.

Should you not be familiar with Wanelo, this is the site that reflects everything a teen truly is. The name stands for "Want. Need. Love." Well, indeed.

More than half the respondents offered that social-media sites influence their purchasing decisions. This might be especially true when the whole site is about their self-expression as material boys and girls.

It is unsurprising, therefore, that Facebook is releasing its new Home skin in order -- at least partly -- to have a little more skin in the purchasing game.

While Home doesn't have ads for now, it will have.

And then the company will attempt to impress the young and impressionable with a beautiful collage of their friends and their friends' favorite material desires.

Of course, Home does have one little issue. (Well, several, but let's start with one.) It's only on Android.

This survey, on the other hand, declares that Apple's iPhone and iPad are actually gaining popularity among teens.

Perhaps they have got over the excitement of dancing around with their Surfaces.

The Piper Jaffray survey shows an 8 percent increase in teens owning iPhones and a hearty 62 percent saying iPhone will be their next phone purchase. This compares with Android, which was down 1 percent.

I hope that's enough numbers for today.

Let's conclude with a little human nature. No one should believe that teens stick with anything. It's their hormonal right to be as mercurial as a linebacker with too many drugs inside him.

It's actually remarkable that they are still giving Facebook as much respect as they appear to do.

But there must be so many budding -- and perhaps teenage -- entrepreneurs who know that they need to find just one small emotional hook that will pull vast numbers of teens away from Facebook very, very quickly.

Perhaps it'll be a social-networking site that bans anyone over 19. There's always an advantage for teens to be somewhere their parents wouldn't dare to tread. Or just aren't allowed to.

Perhaps it'll be a site where teens are allowed to express themselves only in color combinations and emoticons.

But something will emerge. Mark Zuckerberg knows this. Facebook warned about it in its 10-K annual report, filed with the SEC.

It may well be that, despite Facebook's best and most manipulative efforts, it will have to let the kids leave home and hope they might return again some day.

At least for a night or two.