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Facebook remains the undisputed king of the global social media scene, and the total number of UK users is still rising—to 31.5 million in 2015, eMarketer estimates. But growth is slowing, and Facebook’s share of social network users is also shrinking, according to a new eMarketer report, “UK Key Trends for 2015: Consumer-Focused Technologies Shift Up a Gear.”
Evidence is mounting that among young people in particular, Facebook is no longer an unbreakable habit. eMarketer predicts almost no new UK users ages 12 to 24 will join the social network between now and 2017, and that in the crucial 18-to-24 age bracket, user numbers will fall annually between 2016 and 2018.
Many UK teens and young adults are being drawn to an edgier scene, beyond the view of their elders—and even some of their peers. Several new social sites and apps have launched in the past two years that are expanding steadily in the UK. Many of these younger networks are a product of this urge to create or join something novel and different that sets its users apart.
Rapid user growth of social sites other than Facebook is particularly notable among younger teens. In polling of UK social media users ages 12 to 15, the UK’s Office of Communications (Ofcom) found Instagram usage had more than doubled (to 36% of respondents) between June 2013 and June 2014, and the proportion using WhatsApp and Snapchat were 20% and 26%, respectively. [Note: Ofcom hadn’t researched penetration of social apps like WhatsApp and Snapchat in 2013.]
Older teens are also embracing newer social networks. In Q2 2014, nearly half (46%) of UK mobile web users ages 16 to 19 surveyed by GlobalWebIndex had used Snapchat in the previous month, and 16% of that same group had accessed video-sharing site Vine.
In August 2014, 89% of 15-to-18-year-old UK internet users surveyed by ComRes for BBC Newsbeat said they were Facebook account holders, but around 60% were also users of Twitter and Snapchat.
GlobalWebIndex recently reported half of Facebook users in the US and Britain were using the site less than before. Teens were less likely than other age groups to be cutting their time on social sites, but more likely to express anti-Facebook sentiments or say they were increasing their time spent on other social networks. Likewise, Ofcom found a 1-percentage-point dip in Facebook use, and even bigger drops for Twitter and YouTube, among UK young teen social network users.
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