By Jim Edwards
Twitter has overtaken Facebook as the social media network that is most important to teens, according to Piper Jaffray's semi-annual teen market research report. Twitter is the new king of teens, with 26 percent naming it as their "most important" social site. Only 23 percent said Facebook was most important, down from a high of 42 percent.
But Twitter should not become complacent, the report suggests. That's because Instagram has rocketed in popularity with teens. 23 percent said Facebook-owned Instagram was their No.1 choice, up from 12 percent a year ago. The stats dovetail with a Pew report. Here's Pew's money quote from a 14-year-old girl:
“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.”
The maneuvering suggests Facebook was right to acquire Instagram as a backstop against losing younger users to competing, simpler networks. The reports are a contrast, but not a contradiction to, Facebook's own statements on teen users. CEO Mark Zuckerberg has twice spoken publicly recently about whether teens are abandoning Facebook. In September, Zuckerberg said "coolness is done for us." Previously, on his Q2 earnings call, Zuckerberg said that Facebook's own research shows that teens are not abandoning the site.
Facebook has, frustratingly, declined to share that research—even though investors would salivate over it. Two different sources inside Facebook tell Business Insider that there is a difference between what teens say about Facebook and how they actually use it. Sure, Facebook might be uncool—your mom is on it, after all—but it's such a ubiquitous tool, and teens have huge social networks on it. "The typical (median) teen Facebook user has 300 friends, while the typical teen Twitter user has 79 followers," Pew says.
Disclosure: The author owns Facebook stock.