It's Official: Facebook Is No Longer a Company for Kids

By Vincent Trivett  OCT 24, 2013 4:30 PM

The Instagram acquisition is as huge for Facebook as YouTube is for Google.

 


The company that began as a college kid's tool for judging the hotness of female dorm mates has grown up.

Facebook Inc (NASDAQ:FB) has an image in our hearts and minds (and in the media) as a young company. This is largely due to the fact that it actually is young, having launched less than a decade ago. The public face of the company, founder Mark Zuckerberg, is not exactly your typecast CEO of a major corporation. But more importantly, it is assumed that Facebook is for the kids. This is where the young folks in the sweet-spot consumer demographic direct their coveted eyeballs, and its where advertisers should go to reach them.

Well, Piper Jaffrey has a report (h/t HuffPost) that should put that stereotype to bed. Facebook is no longer the go-to social network for teens.

Facebook just manages to tie with Instagram as the most important social network for teenagers, with 23% of them saying that both are their favorite. This is down from 42% a year ago. Twitter wins with 26% of teens saying it is their favorite. Tumblr, Yahoo's (NASDAQ:YHOO) billion-dollar lifeline to the kids at the cool table, is the favorite of just 4%.

This should be a huge concern for Facebook. Pew also released a report today on the use of Facebook to get news, which said that one-third of US adults get their news from the social network, and 80% of US adults are on it. Pew quoted a 14-year-old female respondent who said, I got mine [Facebook account] around sixth grade. And I was really obsessed with it for a while. Then towards eighth grade, I kind of just -- once you get into Twitter, if you make a Twitter and an Instagram, then you'll just kind of forget about Facebook, is what I did. 

Before you assume that Twitter just won the teens, consider that just about every teen is still on Facebook, even those who aren't that fond of it. Pew found that 94% of teens have a Facebook profile, but apparently, the quarter who has a Twitter account are die-hard fans. The Pew survey also found that the age 18-29 demographic accounts for one-third of Facebook news consumption. So young adults, if not teens, are still using it a great deal.

And of course, Facebook owns Instagram. Together, they still dominate, but they are apples and oranges.

Instagram is where the growth is for now. It doubled its share of the teen population over last year, a reverse image of Facebook's declining popularity. It just doesn't have the same capacity to be the dream platform for advertisers.

Advertisers love that television gives them laser-targeting of demographics. This is why you see makeup commercials during cute sitcoms and ads for both athletic gear and awful beer when a football game is on. Facebook is even more accurate. Google (NASDAQ:GOOG) comes close, but sometimes misses. You can actually see what kind of person Google thinks you are, here. (Check it out. It's probably off a bit, and likely to put you into an existential funk.) Facebook doesn't have that problem because users tell it who they are. Got an ad for female Meatloaf fans under 25 who live in Delaware? Facebook will find both of them and only serve your ad to them.

Instagram users don't put every little demographic/cultural detail about themselves in their profiles. And since the whole appeal of Instagram at first was that it wasn't Facebook, it didn't bombard users with creepily accurate ads. Facebook is approaching monetizing the app very carefully.

Whether Facebook is losing teens or not, it is certainly maturing as a company. For example, it is definitely bowing to the mainstream by censoring gore videos, and it is even turning into a force in Washington with its FWD.us campaign for immigration reform.

Twitter: @vincent_trivett

No positions in stocks mentioned.

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