Ofcom reports a 5% decline in teenagers’ use of Facebook. Twitter is an environment relatively devoid of teens. So where are they? They’re probably outdoors. All kidding aside, there’s been a lot of data floating around comparing the various demographics’ use of social networking services. ComScore provides some contradictory data to the Facebook point above. In all likelihood and statistical significance, there hasn’t been much change in the usage of Facebook by teens. A social network or gaming site has two choices when it comes to serving an audience within a demographic: they decide to hold an age range constant or they can decide to hold a cohort constant (it’s pretty similar to inertial reference frames). In the former, a social network focuses on a particular age group, 13-17 for example, providing tools for on-ramping new users from other sites targeting younger users and off-ramping them when they’ve grown too old for the community. In the latter, a social network finds a user base at a particular age, and provides them features to meet their needs over time.
It’s clear that Facebook has chosen to serve the needs of a cohort growing older with the site, by developing and releasing ever more sophisticated features to manage larger friend lists with extensive permissions systems and integration into other sites like CNN. Fundamentally, they’re providing features that older users needing to manage every larger networks need to manage their online identities. It’s becoming a living phone book and directory. Twitter serves a similar need, but in a one to many sense. MySpace have also completed a similar trajectory. Many of the features such as the feed and the new email platform serve similar purposes to Facebook’s improvement. Which of course leaves a gap for an upstart. These two networks likely won’t serve the needs of the teenagers the aforementioned blog articles have been searching for – they’re focused on serving the needs of their existing massive user bases. The most salient trademark of a new network targeted to teens will be the delivery mechanism. The network that will serve their needs will be delivered to the mobile phone. The volumes of SMS sent by this group is strong evidence of that. Location will likely be intimately tied; gaming of course will be a strong component with significant social interaction. What form this new network will take is still unclear – but with each new crop of location based services and casual games, we step one inch closer to finding out.