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Finding teenagers on social media … again

By Eric Seiberling

Nine out of 10 teenagers use social media. They see it as a way to connect with one another. They share their thoughts and feelings. It gives them an outlet to express themselves and creates a sense of community.

Most teens still feel the need to maintain a profile on Facebook, even if they are not very active. According to a Pew Research report, 94 percent of all teenagers have a Facebook account. They use it so others can find them, similar to having their name listed in the phone directory, and still use Facebook Messenger quite extensively, especially as a mobile app.

However, where teens connect is changing. According to the latest research from GlobalWebIndex, Facebook usage continues to grow with more than a billion registered users; however, teens are slowly leaving the platform. Facebook has ceded its top spot as the most important social network among U.S. teenagers, with only 23 percent considering it the most important social network. This is down from 42 percent a year ago, according to a survey from Piper Jaffray.

This trend of moving away from Facebook is a global phenomenon. Active usage of Facebook among teens shrank 17 percent as a whole. Teens are looking for services that are mobile, private and multimedia enabled. For example, South Korea’s KakaoTalk, China’s WeChat and Japan’s LINEare all sites that offer games, stickers and music sharing, as well as instant messaging. Teens are looking for services that match their lifestyle.

Professor Daniel Miller from University College, London, writes in a blog post, "It is nothing new that young people care about style and status in relation to their peers, and Facebook is simply not cool anymore. The desire for the new also drives each new generation to find their own media, and this is playing out now in social media.”

So, where are they going?

Twitter’s popularity is growing among teens. It offers quick connection with anyone in the world, even celebrities. Users post updates in 140 or fewer characters. They can follow and be followed, as well as block other users from seeing what they post.

YouTube remains a key video-sharing site among teens around the world. Twenty-one percent of all young adults 16 to 24 use this service to share stories, listen to music and find something to make them laugh.

Instagram allows users to edit and post photos taken on their phone. According to Nielsen, Instagram is the top photography site among teens 12 to 17, with 1 million teens per month.

Tumblr combines blogging, messaging and creativity in a single package. Teens can customize their space with their personality, self-expression, design and even audio and video. Its ability to stream posts and pictures is similar to Twitter. Its big attraction is the ability to create collections of media that quickly and powerfully express the poster’s personality.

Snapchat allows users to send messages, primarily photos and videos that are destroyed seconds after they are received. This service is marketed to teens with “capture-the-moment” messaging. Unlike Facebook, which archives every picture for years, Snapchat images are only available for one to 10 seconds, after which they are hidden from the recipient's device and deleted from Snapchat's servers.

Vine allows users to create and post six-second videos that can also be shared on Twitter and Facebook. John Herrman at BuzzFeed conducted a small study via Vinepeek, a site that posts Vines in real time, and found the majority of users were teens.

Up-and-coming social media apps:

Kik is a fast, simple and personal smartphone messenger system. Instead of sending emails and texts, users can exchange videos, sketches, smileys and more. Perfect for our current “meme culture,” Kik lets users search for and share images, memes and YouTube videos. In 2012 itself, Kik had 30 million users.

Social-media applications from around the world

If you know missionaries working in the countries mentioned below, consider forwarding this information so they can better reach youth and young adults.

KakaoTalk is a Korean messaging app with more than 90,000 users sending 4.8 billion messages a day. KakaoTalk is thought to be on 90 percent of all smartphones in South Korea. Registered users can choose from more than 100 games to play with one another and customize it with widgets.

WhatsApp handles more than 10 billion messages a day and has more than 250,000 users worldwide. It is the most popular messaging app in the United Kingdom and on half the country's iPhones and is on more than 95 percent of all smartphones in Spain.

WeChat, a Chinese social-media app, handles voice messages, snapshots and emoticons and has more than 200,000 subscribers. The vast majority of users are in China, though it also has subscribers in the United States and the United Kingdom. It is the first Chinese social-media application with the potential to go global.

LINE is Japan’s largest social network with 50 million native users and more than 300 million users worldwide. It supports text, photo, video and audio messages as well as free VoIP calling and free audio and video conferences.

These social media applications can allow your church to keep in touch with youth and young adults. Make sure to make the right connections and follow the appropriate social-media etiquette.