As older people continue to inch Facebook’s user count upward, teenagers are increasingly leaving the social media powerhouse in favor of a platform they feel they have greater control over: Snapchat.
If you have teens in your house or a grandma on Facebook, this may come as no surprise. Younger users like platforms that emphasize visuals, and they like sharing posts away from adults’ prying eyes. But the migration is happening even faster than previously expected.
The number of Facebook users ages 12 to 17 is expected to decrease by 5.6 percent in 2018, according to a forecast from New York-based market research company eMarketer. That means that for the first time, less than half of U.S. internet users in that age group are expected to use Facebook at least once a month in 2018.
It’s not just the teens leaving. Overall, Facebook is expected to lose 2 million users who are 24 or younger this year, according to eMarketer. Snapchat, on the other hand, is expected to add 1.9 million users in that age group.
Instagram, which Facebook owns, is still bigger in the U.S. than Snapchat. But it is only expected to add 1.6 million users in the 24 and younger group this year.
Facebook declined to comment, and Snapchat did not respond.
Posts and messages on Snapchat disappear after a short time, and that makes it fun for the younger age group, said Debra Aho Williamson, a principal analyst at eMarketer.
“(It’s) less likely that you’re going to go, ‘Oh gosh, a year ago I sent that or posted that? Ew,’ ” she said. “Whereas on Facebook, people of older generations, that doesn’t necessarily matter to them. They like that posterity.”
Facebook is still adding monthly users, albeit slowly. It is expected to hit 169.5 million users in the U.S. this year, up less than 1 percent from 2017, according to the eMarketer forecast. People ages 55 and up make up 22.5 percent of those users, second only to the 25 to 34 age group.
“That’s why it’s uncool to that group who is 14 years old and they want to share what they’re doing with their friends but they don’t want grandma to see,” said Molly Lynch, founder of Chicago-based Lynch Communications Group.
Younger users feel like they have control on Snapchat, said Lynch, who also teaches a social media and brand personalities class at DePaul University’s College of Communication. Instagram shares the cool factor, allowing users to create beautiful feeds. Young people know how to harness engagement with their followers there, she said, ballooning their likes and boosting their confidence along the way.
Businesses choosing to advertise on any social media platform will really have to define their target audience and figure out where they’re going to be, Lynch said.
“Right now, Facebook won’t go away,” she said. “It just won’t be as cool to certain age groups.”
Subscribe to the Morning Review newsletter
Get the day’s top headlines delivered to your inbox every morning by subscribing to our newsletter.