Facebook can’t stay on top forever—not with so many new social apps nipping at its heels, anyway. A new survey of 7,200 U.S. students by research group Piper Jaffray suggests that the social giant is in fact dramatically losing teen users, despite what COO Sheryl Sandberg might want us to believe. In spring 2014, 72 percent of respondents between the ages of 13 and 19 reported that they used Facebook; by fall 2014, that number fell to 45 percent. By all accounts, that’s a massive drop for a company that’s downplayed its waning popularity among the key demographic of younger users for the last year.
Facebook proper may have fallen from grace, but Facebook-owned Instagram is on the rise among teens. The number of teens using Instagram nudged upward from 69 percent to 76 percent in the same time period while Twitter fell slightly from 63 percent to 59 percent, Google+ dropped considerably from 29 percent to 12 percent and Twitter, Pinterest, and Reddit held steady.
Assuming there are no confounding variables—Piper Jaffray claims to have accounted household income and gender—these are some pretty damning stats. A decline is one thing, but 45 percent means that in the span of a few months, Facebook use plummeted, with less than half of teens identifying as Facebook users.
Facebook clearly isn’t unaware of its problem, though it’s questionable if cranking out more standalone mobile products can cure what ails it. The social network, now more than 10-years-old, began as a different product altogether. In 2014, it needs to court a generation that’s been living and breathing social media for the lion’s share of their lives—and it better figure out how to do that quickly.