Teens are abandoning Facebook in droves for Twitter.
For many, that was the takeaway from an Oct. 10 Piper Jaffray study of 8,650 teens. That conclusion was false. The study had a much narrower focus than has been reported and only referred to purchasing activity on the platforms.
This key paragraph in the press release explaining the study caused the confusion (emphasis ours):
Teens have cited “friends” as the strongest influence over their purchase decisions for the duration of our survey history, but “Internet” is quickly rising in profile. More than half of teens indicate that social media impacts their purchases with Twitter being the most important, eclipsing Facebook, followed closely by Instagram. But the popularity of Facebook is waning among teens with 23% citing it as the most important, down from 33% six months ago and 42% a year ago.
There’s no doubt the report shows bad news for Facebook. However, the data refers to importance for purchases. The ambiguous wording of the presser — including remarks about the “popularity” of the social networks — didn’t help. After all, it was possible to read the last sentence as its own entity in which “most important” referred to most important overall.
That may be the case, but that’s not what Piper Jaffray was asking about. A rep for the financial advisor says the study was looking specifically at buying behavior and wasn’t trying to determine whether teens prefer Twitter to Facebook overall.
This sounds like great news for Twitter. Yet it’s unclear how much of teens’ purchasing activity is actually spurred by the social network. A study last year by IBM found that it had exactly zero effect on Black Friday sales. Facebook, LinkedIn and YouTube didn’t fare much better, generating only 0.34% of online sales on Black Friday.
It’s also true that Twitter is gaining popularity with teens: A Pew Research study in May showed that the number of teens on Twitter doubled from 2011 to 26%. Yet 94% of teens reported being on Facebook. The “teens are tired of Facebook” narrative also picked up over the summer when Mashable ran an op-ed by 13 year-old Ruby Karp explaining that neither she nor her friends were on Facebook.
Nevertheless, researcher The Futures Company, which looks closely at teens’ behavior, has found that while Facebook use has plateaued (which tends to happen when you hit 94%), teens still aren’t leaving the social network en masse.
All of which is to say that there may be something to the persistent narrative that teens are getting sick of Facebook. The Piper Jaffray report doesn’t make that case.
Technology and platform convergence is the next big thing that businesses are looking for –- whether it be mobile and Internet or Internet and TV. It’s all about a revenue stream for the future.
Airtel Digital TV, an arm of Indian telecommunications company Bharti Airtel, revealed Monday that it has integrated Twitter with its digital TV offerings for the first time. With this new form of convergence, users can actually tweet while watching TV and can view tweets related to their TV shows as well. It launches Tuesday at no extra charge to subscribers.
Jana Messerschmidt, Twitter’s VP of business development and platforms, said, “We are excited to see partners like Airtel innovating with our platform and helping their audience connect with the TV programs they love.”
Airtel’s Twitter know-how actually comes from Bangalore-based startup Brizz TV, which works in the areas of TV technology and is powering this new service for Airtel Digital TV. To start watching-and-tweeting, subscribers just have to click their remote’s green button. Initially, the service will be available on select TV channels, but more will be added.
Airtel Digital TV has 373 channels including 17 high definition and five interactive channels. It claimed to have 8.5 million subscribers at the end of June 2013.
Although Airtel hasn’t disclosed the business model of this partnership with Twitter, it’s fairly safe to assume that the telco will stream targeted Twitter ads and marketing promotions to its TV subscribers. Airtel could also use this to better promote its other Internet services. Since the voice and SMS business is no longer the prime revenue generator in India, it is forcing telcos to innovate and develop new ways to get income.
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Image: Scott Beale
Flexing its muscles as a public-facing forum, Facebook reported Monday that the average referral track from Facebook to media sites jumped 170% last year.
Facebook also disclosed that from September 2012 to September 2013, Time’s referral traffic rose 208%, BuzzFeed’s increased by 855% and Bleacher Report experienced a boost of 1,081%. Facebook also announced a feature called Stories to Share for page managers of media firms that recommends which stories to share on Facebook.
Andy Mitchell, director of partnerships for Facebook, attributes much of the growth in referrals to improvements in Facebook’s News Feed algorithm. “We’re getting better at showing the right story at people who are interested in it,” he says. In addition, Facebook has shared best practices with media firms, which help them post more effectively, he says.
New research from SimpleReach bolsters the claim. SimpleReach found that Facebook drives more traffic to media sites than any other social media platform.
Meanwhile, Facebook had some advice to media firms: Post more. Facebook worked with 29 media sites over a seven-day period recently and found a greater number of posts “frequently” increases referral traffic by more than 80%. During that test period the site posted 57% more articles, which netted an 89% increase in outbound clicks to their domains plus 10% more Likes on average. The number of net fans per page rose 49%.
That said, Mitchell does acknowledge that the law of diminishing returns applies: At some point, you can overload fans with too many posts. Facebook doesn’t have a recommended number of posts. Mitchell says media properties have to determine a figure on their own.
Along the same lines, Stories to Share helps those media firms figure out which stories to post next. The recommendation widget is pretty straightforward: It analyzes your homepage to see which stories people are sharing the most on Facebook even though the media property hasn’t yet shared it through its Facebook account. That feature is going live on Monday with 1,5000 news organizations. Stories to Share had been in beta with a handful of news organizations (the company declined to identify which ones) over the past few weeks.
The emphasis on media partners comes as Facebook has recently revved competition with the much-smaller Twitter for ad-spending opportunities related to real-time marketing like second-screen conversations and trending news items. Encouraging news organizations to post more often will aid a Trending Articles feature that seems to be a likely next move for the company.
Image: Getty/KIMIHIRO HOSHINO