A new report on social media use finds that Facebook’s supremacy over its rivals is fading among young adults, who are more attracted to visually-driven platforms like Instagram and Snapchat.
Conducted by post-secondary education consulting company, the Academica Group, the report surveyed 1,706 high school, university and college students across Canada on their social media preferences.
The results showed that Facebook is still the most common platform, with 89 per cent of respondents saying that they’ve used Facebook sometime within the past three months, compared to 67 per cent for Instagram and 63 per cent for Snapchat. Twitter usage among students was significantly lower at 46 per cent, while Linkedin came in a distant fifth at 24 pr cent.
Divided amongst age groups, however, the numbers told a different story. Facebook usage is at its strongest for students aged 20 to 30 and weakest among the under-17 and aged 18 to 19 cohorts. In fact, Snapchat and Instagram stand almost on par with Facebook for the teen student groups.
The trend says something about changing social media preoccupations for younger Canadians, a message that colleges and universities need to pick up on, say the report’s authors, if they want to reach out to potential students and to stay connected with the ones already enrolled at their institution.
“These findings raise some compelling questions for social media professionals in higher ed,” reads the report. “Do students interact with schools via Facebook more than Snapchat or Instagram because the platform is more suited to this use, or because social media professionals are more familiar and comfortable with using it?”
Kayla Lewis, manager of Social Media and Media Relations at Seneca College in Toronto, said that post-secondary institutions need to make use of social media to engage with students, which entails not only being aware of which platforms are most popular but which ones are best capable of serving the institution’s needs.
“We find that Instagram is really leading the pack right now in terms of the engagement with our social media audience,” says Lewis, for the report. “While Facebook might still have the most users, we find our audience is most passive on Facebook.”
Lewis says that while Snapchat is hugely popular among students, its engagement value for universities and colleges is low. “It’s not a platform for that,” Lewis says. “[Students] want Snapchat for interacting with a close group of friends, and essentially doing what they would do over text message, which is share a text update and attaching a photo or video.”
The different ways that people use various social media platforms is becoming more of a focus of interest, with a recent study from the Mormon Brigham Young University in Utah finding that Facebook users can be essentially broken down into four types: there’s the relationship builder, who posts and responds on Facebook in aid of fortifying relationships that exist beyond the virtual world. There are the town criers who use the platform to announce local events or to post relevant (to them, at least) news stories. Thirdly, we have the window shoppers, who are more interested in passive people-watching than actual engagement. And finally, everyone’s favourite, there are the “selfies” who mainly use Facebook as a means of attention-seeking and self-promotion