Facebook's Sandberg says teen decline exaggerated

Analysts counter that teens are lured away by Snapchat, Instagram, Twitter

Facebook executive Sheryl Sandberg said rumors that the social media company is falling out of favor with teenagers have been greatly exaggerated.

Despite reports that teens are dumpingFacebook for other sites like Instagram and Snapchat, Sandberg said the social network's teen user base is stable, according to a report in All Things D.

"The vast majority of U.S. teens are on Facebook," Sandberg, the company's chief operating officer, said in the interview. "And the majority of U.S. teens use Facebook almost every day."

Earlier this month, David Ebersman, Facebook's chief financial officer, stirred up a talk when he said, during the company's quarterly earnings call, that the social network is struggling to keep teenagers' attention.

"We did see a decrease in [teenage] daily users [during the quarter], especially younger teens," said Ebersman, who went on to call the network's teen user base "stable."

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This isn't a new problem , but it appears to be getting worse for Facebook, which originally was launched for college students. Now, Facebook appears to be getting more traction from users with gray hair than those facing mid-term exams.

"I think [Sandberg] is covering," said Zeus Kerravala, an analyst with ZK Research. "I think teens are using Twitter and Instagram more. I have six teens, and I can say from experience they're losing interest [in Facebook]."

Why aren't Kerravala's kids using Facebook more? It's because he's on Facebook, and for teenagers, having Mom and Dad using the same site detracts from any site's cool factor.

"Sure, I think it's because I'm on Facebook," Kerravala said. "I think Facebook is now thought of as an older generation tool. They don't want parents, grandparents, teachers, etc., seeing what they are posting. Teens want a closed community of other teens."

Christian Perry, an analyst with Technology Business Research, said the social networking market is swimming with options, from which teenagers can choose.

Sandberg, according to the report, admitted that's an issue, saying, "One of the challenges we face right now is that we're a decade old. That means that we're not the newest. And often, particularly in our space, newer things are shinier and cooler."

At 10 years old, Facebook is not the new kid on the block. Instead, sites like Facebook-owned Instagram, along with Snapchat and Twitter, are capturing a lot of users' -- especially younger users' -- attention.

"Others are ready to step into a void that might occur when Facebook loses its allure for teens," said Perry. "Then factor in some of the unique mobile-driven social media alternatives, and Facebook is no doubt facing competition out there."

This article, Facebook's Sandberg says teen decline exaggerated, was originally published at Computerworld.com.

Sharon Gaudin covers the Internet and Web 2.0, emerging technologies, and desktop and laptop chips for Computerworld. Follow Sharon on Twitter at @sgaudin, on Google+ or subscribe to Sharon's RSS feed. Her email address is sgaudin@computerworld.com.

See more by Sharon Gaudin on Computerworld.com.

Read more about social media in Computerworld's Social Media Topic Center.

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