Is Facebook Losing Teens?

Yes, Facebook is losing teens.

As far as GlobalWebIndex is concerned, the biggest news from Facebook’s Q3 earnings call last week was a statement by Facebook’s CFO, David Ebersam, where he said engagement among teens was declining, and Facebook itself is having a hard time measuring the decline.

Here is an excerpt of his comments: “this is a hard issue for us to measure … we’ve developed other analytic methods. … our best announcement on youth usage [is that] among U.S. teens was stable overall from Q2 to Q3 but we did see a decrease in daily users partly among younger teens.” He also added that the decline was of “questionable significance”.

Facebook usage globally is something that GlobalWebIndex has been tracking for the past four years, and we thought it important to add some insight on Facebook’s popularity among teenagers, not only in the US, but around the world. Below are answers to three key points that will do just that:

1. “Are teens leaving Facebook?”

Firstly, it is important to understand how GlobalWebIndex defines active usage: users must have an account on Facebook as well as have “used or contributed to Facebook in the past month on any device.” This is a simple measure of active engagement that works very well in market research, something that is near impossible to track using passive data collection or analytics due to the issues with auto-logins, multiple devices and ghost accounts (an issue we explored in an earlier post). In short, it is easy for analytics to record users as active despite no actual human activity. Also, Facebook uses a very broad definition of “active” which includes signing in with a Facebook login on a third party site or clicking a “Like” button. These would likely not be recognised by a user as being active. For these reasons, we believe our market research approach provides the most accurate measure.

Moving back to the issue at hand, Chart 1 below tracks Facebook active usage among 16-19 year olds in the US vs. Global (our research covers 16-65 year olds in 32 countries) since Q2 2012.

What this clearly demonstrates is that just 56% of US teens claim to be active on Facebook in Q3 2013, down 35% from Q1 2013 (76%). This is a substantial decline but also one that is mirrored globally (excluding China).
So the answer to this is categorically yes. Facebook is losing teens all over the world from its peak in Q4 2012.

Facebook is loosing teens

2. “Is Facebook close to ‘penetrated in the US’ amongst teens – as claimed by David Ebersam”?

GlobalWebIndex data shows that 89% of US teens and 88% of teens globally (excl. China) have an account on Facebook. This, one could argue, is near penetration.

3. Is the Facebook teen decline only a US phenomenon?

David Ebersam also alluded to the fact that this is only a US phenomenon. Chart 1 above shows that actually the global figures are similar. If we segment (chart 2 below) this by market, we get a clear context and can see that decline across 2013 amongst teens is much larger in other markets. The lowest levels of decline are in South Africa, Poland and Russia where adoption of Facebook has been a more recent phenomenon. However, some markets show substantially higher levels of decline, led by the Netherlands which has seen active user numbers fall by 52% y-o-y in Q2 2013. The Dutch are followed by Malaysia (-45%), France (-44%), Turkey (-43%) and Mexico (-35%), demonstrating that Facebook teen decline, global and happening on all continents.


Facebook market impact


What does this mean?

The key question we are asking internally is whether this slump is driven by seasonality in Facebook usage or is, in fact, a genuine slide in user numbers.

What is clear is that competition from other social media platforms is increasing, and as we can see users are adopting supplementary services that serve specific needs rather than switching to other platforms entirely. Mobile is a key driver of this change where built-in OS functions and applications make it very easy to use many different services, all of which focus on doing very specific tasks e.g Snapchat or Whatsapp.

Moving forward, we are tackling these questions in two ways. Firstly, the Stream Analyst team is investigating where teens are going if not to Facebook.  Secondly, we are releasing the next wave of our Q4 data at the end of December 2013, which will enable us to better address the seasonality question.

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Q3 GWI Launch: Mobile Operating Systems

Mobile OS platforms continue to grow rapidly as highlighted by our latest infographic for Q3.

This looks at the actual operating systems that people are currently using rather than shipments to provide a more accurate picture of the market as it stands.

What is clear (and not a surprise) is that the Mobile OS market is increasingly dominated by Android and iOS, with Android growing 27% in 2013 to an estimated 708m users. However iOS was the fastest-growing mobile OS expanding a massive 58% in 2013 to an estimated 233m users, bolstered by continued growth in emerging internet markets.

The big surprise, however, was the growth of Windows Phone, which expanded 37% to hit a total of 68m users and is now bigger than BlackberryOS.

Break down the numbers by market share and the only two climbers are Android and iOS, rising to 57% and 19% respectfully. These two operating systems now account for 66% of the market.

Another interesting comparison is to compare the scale of mobile OS adoption and tablet to what’s happening on PCs and laptops. As we see below, the leading OS on PCs today is Windows 7 with an estimated 734m users.
This is significantly smaller than Android across mobile and tablet, which as a combined platform has 925m users. If you are looking for proof points for the post PC reality, this one statistic is all you need.

While it still lags the combined scale of all four Windows desktop operating systems, which by our estimates have a combined user base of 1.4bn users, we predict by as early as 2015 that Android will be the world’s number one OS.



5-Mobile-OS (2)

Q3 GWI Launch: Video and images dominate mobile app growth

Vine is the fastest-growing app in 2013, expanding its estimated audience by an incredible 403%. This is followed by Flickr, which grew 146%, demonstrating a comeback from the written-off photo sharing app, with Instagram in third recording growth of 130% in 2013.

Vine still has the smallest reach (just 3% of mobile users) of the top three but it’s explosive growth equates to estimated active global audience of nearly 24m users. Instagram now has 109m users with a 12% reach, however if these growth rates continue at their present rate, the gap should close.

Rank apps by scale and the top five is dominated by Google, with Google Maps leading the way with 54% reach and an estimated active audience of 474m. Despite the fact that it came 14th in our growth ranking, Google Maps still expanded its user base by 82% in 2013, a reflection of the rapidly expanding smartphone universe.

In second place was Facebook with a 45% audience reach and an estimated 394m users, then YouTube at 35% (308m audience), Google+ 32% reach (277m audience) and Twitter at 23% reach (203m audience).

This ranking demonstrates that applications are continuing to redefine how we experience the internet, shifting behaviours increasingly beyond the browser and the PC. Today users experience a product across multi-devices, browsers and applications.


Q3 GWI Launch: Huge growth in active behaviours

Since we launched the GlobalWebIndex in 2009 we have been tracking active behaviours online and today we track 38 behaviours covering key actions such as Writing Blogs, Using RSS, Purchasing Online and Streaming Video that users have performed across PC, mobile and tablets.

When we look at this data on a global level the new Q3 data reveals some key insights:

  •  Growth of active behaviours: Across the board there are more internet users engaged in active behaviours with every single data point we track, which incredible growth rates across the board in the last 12 months. This demonstrates the continual shift from the passive web to one that is defined by contribution, content and community.
  •  Rise of aggregation and portable content: The leading growth behaviours in terms of numbers of users active on all three devices are “used an aggregator” which grew 90% since Q1 2013 on a PC, 83% on mobile and 112% on tablet. This was followed by RSS, again on all 3 devices. If you dig into the data further you can see that the markets driving this growth tend to be in Asia, although the trend is reflected in other markets. For many years it seemed RSS was a defunct technology, but today is proving more relevant than ever.
  • Dominance of Video: Since GWI.1 back in 2009 “Watching a video clip” has lead the rankings on PC behaviour. Now in Q3 73% of internet users say they have watched video in the past month on their PC. What is interesting is how this behaviour is transferring to other devices and today 63% of mobile users and 67% of tablet users have watched a video clip in the past month. There is also a shift from clips and short-form content, to long-form video and live TV. For example “watching a full-length sports programme” grew 40% since Q1 2013 on PC, 49% on mobile and 73% on mobile, while “streaming live TV” grew 33% on PC, 43% on mobile and 67% on tablet. Bearing in mind this is just the change during 2013, we are seeing epic growth that underlines where the future TV is heading.
  • Growth of complex behaviours on mobile: Traditionally we’ve seen mobile as a cut down experience of what you can achieve on a larger device. But rapid evolutions in device, mobile web development and application device are transforming that reality. Today some of the fastest-growing behaviours are the most complex, for example “sold a product online” was the third-fastest growing behaviour with the user base growing 58% since Q1 2013. This was followed by “Edit/manage own website” which grew 53% and “written a news story/article” which grew 58%.

We believe such data is critical to designing effective strategies. The internet is no longer defined by passive consumption of information via a browser. Today users actively contribute, seek out and consume content, share stories and information, build their own presence and communicate online. The modern internet experience is defined by active behaviours and we believe that understanding this activity is more valuable and insightful than simply looking at which websites dominate consumption.


Q3 Data Launch: Radical evolution in how consumers engage with brands

GlobalWebIndex Q3 2013 data is now available to our clients in PRO Platform.  The new data set demonstrates that social media is driving radical change in how consumers are engaging with brands.

The fastest growing brand behaviours include “retweeting a branded micro-blog post”, up 28% since Q1 2013, followed by “uploading photo / video to a branded social network page/group” and “sharing content in a branded community” – both up 22%. This demonstrates that the big impact for brands from social media is users sharing branded content, underlining the power of human distribution and making it clear why content should be at the heart of every future brand strategy.

GWI-Q3-Changing Brand Engagement

In a broader sense, there is a rise in brand engagement across the board, showing that users are becoming increasingly comfortable with a more involved relationship with brands. We believe this is a direct result of the socialisation of the internet, making brands more accessible and human.

Conversely, the only declining engagement (although still the highest reach) is “Visiting a branded website”, which fell 7%. This is a telling sign of the changing nature of how brands will be engaged online. Increasingly this will be via portable assets such as apps or content, conversation or presence on 3rd party platforms. Owned properties are declining in importance.