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New Research Shows That YouTube Remains the Top Social App for Teens

Which social apps should you be using to connect with teen users?

The team from Pew Research have produced their latest report on teen social media use, based on surveys conducted among 13 to 17 year-old social media users between September and October this year.

And much of it is as you would expect, with YouTube still the dominant online platform of choice, followed by TikTok and Snapchat, though the more recent trends are worth noting in your planning.

First off, Snapchat has just overtaken Instagram in teen popularity since Pew’s last report (in 2022), while Facebook has also seen a slight resurgence.

Pew Research teen social media use

Though as noted, YouTube remains the clear leader in terms of popularity among teens.

But the specific question here is important to note. For this data point, Pew asked 1,453 teens “Do you ever use the following social media apps or sites?” In that context, it’s less surprising that YouTube is the leader, but that doesn’t account for relative time spent, and where teens are actually engaging more often.

Which is likely of more value to marketers:

Pew Research teen social media use

As you can see, in terms of relative platform usage, YouTube remains the leader, though TikTok is also increasingly popular, and actually saw more respondents noting that they ‘almost constantly’ use the app.

That points to the power that TikTok now holds over younger audiences, even besting YouTube in terms of compulsiveness. However, in terms of overall usage, it’s YouTube in the lead, while Snapchat and Instagram are well ahead of Facebook as the next most popular option.

This is valuable context, supplementing the top chart, as it shows precisely where teens are spending their time. Essentially, if you’re looking to reach teen users, YouTube is your best bet, but TikTok ad Snapchat also see high usage, with TikTok even holding more attention among “always online” audiences.

In terms of gender splits, Pew’s data shows that teen girls are more likely than boys to say they almost constantly use TikTok and Snapchat, though there’s less variance in the shares of boys and girls who report almost constantly using YouTube, Instagram, and Facebook.

Pew Research teen social media use

That’s also good data to have, highlighting more specifically where each audience is engaging and interacting, and where they can best be reached.

Pew’s full report also looks at ethnicity splits, household income variances, regional usage changes, and more.

And this is an interesting note:

While 68% of teens ages 15 to 17 say they use Instagram, this share drops to 45% among teens ages 13 and 14.

Instagram’s seemingly less relevant to younger teens, which could be problematic for the app moving forward.

Also this:

“45% of teens in households earning less than $30,000 a year say they use Facebook, compared with 27% of those whose annual household income is $75,000 or more.”

Facebook is more popular among poorer communities, as is TikTok, while BeReal is more commonly used among teens in households earning $75,000 or more a year.

“Some 16% of teens in this category say they use this app, compared with about one-in-ten whose annual household income falls below $75,000.”

That variance is not huge, and BeReal, in general, has lost a lot of its sheen after its initial hype period. But it is interesting to consider why different communities and demographic subsets prefer one app over the other.

Is BeReal more popular among those who are more willing to show off their lifestyle? Is Facebook more of a connector among low-income communities?

Some interesting considerations, which could factor into your 2024 planning.

You can read Pew Research’s full “Teens, Social Media and Technology” report here.

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