Why It Doesn’t Matter That Facebook’s Users Are Getting Older

Source: http://www.flickr.com/photos/goiabarea/

A new study on social network usage from GlobalWebIndex backs up previous findings that teens are indeed moving away from Facebook (NASDAQ:FB), but that might not matter very much for the world’s largest social network.

The study found that users between the ages of 16 and 24 have fallen behind users between the ages of 25 and 34, who make up 29 percent of Facebook’s user base. While the younger age group makes up more than half of the users across all popular social media platforms measured by the firm, the older group makes up the biggest share on almost all of the individual platforms.

The firm said that this shows people who started using platforms like Facebook years ago are sticking with the site as they get older, while younger users are building their loyalty for newer sites. “This reflects the enthusiasm with which the youngest networkers are embracing newer networks together with their slight movement away from the longer-established platforms,” GWI said.

That younger group made up the biggest share of users on Google’s (NASDAQ:GOOG) YouTube, Facebook’s Instagram, and Yahoo’s (NASDAQ:YHOO) Tumblr. The older age group had the biggest share in Facebook, Twitter (NYSE:TWTR), LinkedIn (NYSE:LNKD), and Pinterest, among others.

Overall, the study found that Facebook’s active usage dropped by 3 percent during the last quarter of 2013, an almost insignificantly small number given Facebook’s enormous user base.

“The site continues to experience declines in levels of active usage but the extent of the drop in the second half of 2013 (down 3%) has been significantly over-exaggerated in some reports; it is still hugely popular among all demographic groups and there have in fact been increases in the audience sizes for its apps,” GWI said of Facebook.

Source: GlobalWebIndex

The GWI study found that despite the small decline in active usage, Facebook is still the dominating force in social media by a significant margin. The site had the highest account ownership at 83 percent, highest active usage at 49 percent, and highest visit frequency, with 56 percent of users logging in multiple times per day.

“It is also the most popular site in all regions and its users are the most likely to be carrying out a range of networking activities,” GWI said. Those figures carry much more weight than a small drop in usage, although they don’t make for interesting headlines.

Reports about teens losing interest in Facebook have been circulating since the social network reported third-quarter results in the fall and CFO David Ebersman spooked investors by saying that the site had seen a decrease in younger users.

The researchers at GWI aren’t the first to suggest that the whole teen concern really doesn’t matter that much. SunTrust Robinson Humphrey analyst Robert Peck recently raised his price target on Facebook’s stock, saying that the site’s appeal to teens doesn’t matter anymore.

“Teen usage concerns are over blown, as Facebook has crossed the chasm from ‘cool app’ to a utility,” Peck said. In other words, daily use among teenagers may be eroding, but it’s unclear if the slight erosion in this demographic will undermine Facebook’s ability to operate profitably.

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