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  • Meerelle Cruz

Survey Confirms That Tiktok Has Surpassed Instagram As The Most Popular App Among Teenagers

In case you needed another reminder, and in case you're wondering why Facebook is so focused on reclaiming young users, a new survey from Forrester, based on responses from over 4,600 teenagers in the United States, found that TikTok has seen a 13-point increase in weekly usage year over year, while Instagram has declined 4 points in the same period.

According to Forrester's 'Consumer Technographics US Youth Survey,' 63 percent of teens in the US now use TikTok weekly, up from 50 percent last year, compared to 57 percent for Instagram, as shown in this image (down from 61 percent ). The figures highlight TikTok's quick rise and popularity among younger viewers, which has been a source of concern for Facebook – now Meta – since late 2019, when TikTok became a real trend and a real possible challenge to the company's market domination.

Meta's normal strategy for dealing with opponents has been to try to buy them out before they grow too big, but that strategy was predicated, at least in part, on its infamous Onavo VPN monitoring software, which allowed it to track major app patterns as they grew. In January 2019, Meta was forced to shut down the Onavo tracking program due to its intrusive nature, which saw it essentially collecting data on app usage from numerous teenagers and paying them a tiny fee for doing so. Apple removed Onavo from the App Store once it was discovered, citing policy violations before Meta permanently shut down the program in response to a TechCrunch investigation.

Meta's insight into emerging trends was harmed as a result, making the company more vulnerable to TikTok competition. TikTok had significant growth in 2019 without its Onavo program analyzing trends among young users, with 44 percent of the app's all-time downloads (at the time) occurring during that time. As a result, Meta moved on to phase two of its competitor mitigation playbook, replication, with the launch of Instagram Reels in Brazil in late 2019, before expanding the feature to selected European markets, and finally, India in July 2020, just days after TikTok was banned in the region due to geopolitical tensions with China.

However, as this new report from Forrester and other studies show, the arrival of Reels hasn't slowed TikTok's expansion, and while Facebook has pressed US government officials about security concerns about the Chinese-owned app, and has since rolled out Reels on Facebook as well, none of its previous measures to fend off competition have worked in the same way, as TikTok continues to steal younger audiences and relegate Instagram to the back seat. In digging deeper into these tendencies, Forrester discovered that users see TikTok as being more 'fun' and 'funny,' as well as having a more favorable overall experience than Instagram.

While not included in the above image, YouTube remains the most popular app among US teen users, with 72 percent of teens using it weekly, according to Forrester's statistics. That, in general, appears to be indicative of broader trends among young audiences, with YouTube and TikTok now leading the way in their respective usage paths (though YouTube is also attempting to eat into TikTok's market share with 'Shorts'), while Instagram and Facebook fall further behind, with negative press surrounding Facebook and its appeal to older users seemingly diminishing its overall 'cool factor.'

This is a huge source of concern for Meta, especially as it prepares for its massive metaverse change. Adoption by younger, more computer-savvy, trend-setting consumers is a major component of all tech trends, and if Meta continues to lose ground to competitors, it may be difficult to optimize the adoption of its VR and AR capabilities. Because, while Meta's upcoming AR glasses are functionally powerful, they won't be used if people don't think they're cool.

What evidence do we have for this? Because Google Glass was doomed to fail for the same reason. Even though that was a long time ago, and Meta's next wearables are significantly more advanced and functional, the same habits persist.

To maximize its potential in the following stage, Meta must keep a hold on the youth. It still has a chance to prevail, especially if it can establish itself as a critical support layer for the broader metaverse, as well as a sort of host for other developers and platforms to construct in virtual space. However, if Instagram, in particular, continues to lose ground, there are some significant hazards.

The question then becomes whether Meta can reclaim younger people, or whether it is already too late, with TikTok, YouTube, and Snapchat all outperforming Meta in various ways among teen users. As Meta attempts to ratchet up its youth offensive in 2022, this will be a vital factor to watch.

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