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TikTok Wasn’t the Only Social Platform That Gained Young Users This Year

Yes, it was a big year for TikTok—but that wasn’t the only platform to gain young users in 2019. We looked at our quarterly social media monitor survey to see who earned, and lost, Gen Zs and Millennials this year…

If you just went by headlines, you might think that TikTok was the only social media platform to pay attention to right now. And yes, it was a big year for the app. But while TikTok has seen their user numbers grow at an impressive rate, its cultural impact is the bigger story. It’s the new hub of viral content, with videos that originated on the platform creating memes and stars across the internet. The New York Times reports that TikTok clubs are the latest trend in high schools around the country. The TikTok effect hit the music industry, as young artists landed major record deals after going viral on the platform—like Lil Nas X with his record-breaking, genre-bending hit “Old Town Road.” Thanks to all of this cultural impact, brands have jumped into the platform with both feet, creating organic feeling campaigns—especially those featuring challenges and original songs—that have also gone viral with young consumers.

All of this headline-stealing action might give the impression that TikTok is the only app that young consumers (especially teens) are paying attention to, or that those young consumers are ditching other platforms. But that’s not what’s happening. YPulse’s quarterly social media survey looks at what platforms are being used by young consumers—and to close out 2019, we compared 13-37-year-olds’ reported use of all social players in February (when we added TikTok) to their reported use in October. We knew that TikTok isn’t the top platform used by Gen Z and Millennials, by a long shot—but we also found that it’s not the only platform that has seen young user growth in 2019.

Because TikTok has earned a reputation as Gen Z teens’ new favorite place, we’ll start by looking at how 13-17-year-olds’ social media use has changed over 2019:

There have been plenty of social media shifts for teens this year. But first we should note that while some platforms saw bigger increases in teen users, YouTube, Instagram, and Snapchat remain the most popular social sites among this group—by far. Facebook, Facebook Messenger, and Snapchat actually did see a decrease in 13-17-year-old users between February and October of this year. Though we will note that this young age group is the least likely to use Facebook, and the platform actually saw slight gains in user just slightly older: 18-20-year-olds’ Facebook use went from 69% in February to 73% in October. Similarly, Snapchat use among 13-17-year-olds dropped, but among 18-20-year-olds it stayed fairly steady: 69% in February and 71% in October.

Young teens have had more flux in their social media use, and several platforms (not just TikTok) have attracted more of them this year. Here’s a look at the platforms that have seen significant gains in 13-17-year-old users in 2019:

Between February and October of this year, TikTok use among 13-17-year-olds did increase from 12% to 20%—and this age group is currently the most likely to be using the video app. Variety reports that 60% of the social video app’s 26.5 million monthly active users in the U.S. are 16-24-years-old, and our data shows that users who report using TikTok skews even younger.  But our data also shows that TikTok didn’t have the biggest jump in users numbers among young teens. Reddit had the largest increase: 17%, with 24% of 13-17-year-olds saying they use Reddit in October compared to just 7% who said they used it back in February.

This year, YPulse partnered with Reddit on a custom survey of over 1,300 13-39-year-old Reddit users exploring how the platform is engaging young users, and how engagement on the site is on the rise among Gen Z & Millennials. Our research shows that Reddit use among social media users rose 50% year-over-year, while Instagram was only up 9%, and use of Facebook, Twitter, and Snapchat all fell. Meanwhile, eMarketer reports that Reddit is on track to double its ad revenue over the coming years.

Pinterest, Twitch, Discord, and Imgur all also saw notable gains in this group—and we shouldn’t ignore the fact that two of the platforms with the biggest increases in these young users (Twitch and Discord) are gaming and esports-focused. Brands targeting young consumers need to pay attention to this interest, and the spaces that foster its community.

But what about other young consumers? We also looked at 18-37-year-olds’ reported social media use this year. Here’s what we found:

Among this group—who are majority Millennials—use of most major platforms remained steady in 2019, with only YouTube and Pinterest seeing drops worth noting (and still not huge ones). Facebook is still the top platform among 18-37-year-olds, with use especially high among 25-37-year-olds, and Instagram follows closely in popularity. With Millennials’ social media use fluctuating less than teens’, there were also fewer platforms that saw big gains. But there were four fairly impressive jumps:

WhatsApp, Twitch, and TikTok all gained 18-37-year-old users. But Telegram saw the biggest increase here, jumping 10% between February and November. Interestingly, back in March, Telegram reported a huge jump in their user numbers after a rare Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp outage. TechCrunch reported that 3 million users signed up for the platform in just 24 hours. The increase (and potentially WhatsApp’s as well) could also be attributed to Millennials’ increasing interest in private spaces, and encrypted messaging, in the wake of many privacy breaches on other networks.

But all said, Twitch and TikTok are the only two social spaces that increased both 13-17-year-old and 18-37-year-old users, putting both of them in an enviable position—and making both platforms that brands should increase focus on.