Teens are cooler than us. Here’s what they think about social media.

Investment bank Piper Sandler recently released its 42nd semi-annual survey of teens in the United States, and it’s chock-full of insights and data on what’s cool with the kids. 

We know, in our business, that the youngest generations are the ones that drive trends, from clothing to pop culture – and social media intersects all of that. So, when Gen. Z makes a drastic shift from one platform or style of creativity to another, us marketers ought to listen. 

This latest survey ranges in topics from consumer habits and how teens prefer to pay for things (cash is still king!), to what social media platforms they use most.  

10,000 teenagers from across the U.S. shared their thoughts with the firm – many of which could inform what us marketers do to gain an edge, especially on social media this coming year. 

The teens responded to the survey saying they use social media for about four hours each day. That leaves us with plenty of time to squeeze in and share our brands’ messaging with them. This year, we saw a continued big pivot from standalone image or text posts in a timeline, to quick-hit vertical videos with a heavy focus on audio (hello, TikTok!) has inspired a lot of platform changes. 

Here’s the rundown: 

TikTok is more popular than ever. I don’t think the federal government’s previous threats to ban the platform outright had any impact on its audience. 

From the spring of 2020 to the fall of 2021, the percentage of teens who identified TikTok as their most-used app jumped from 62 to 73%. 

Instagram is falling out of favor. Not only did fewer teens say they used Instagram more than any competitor apps, but the data dug up a truly heartbreaking figure for Meta: just 22% of teens identified the ‘gram as their favorite app. Perhaps related to the onslaught of changes including shopping integration and Reels? 

And if that wasn’t bad enough, teens twist the knife with Mark Zuckerberg, with just 2% of them saying Facebook was their top pick. 

Meanwhile, Snapchat still holds strong at #1 among this demographic – as it turns out, peer to peer connections and conversations (what makes social media, social!) is still popular.  

The Piper Sandler report also touches on other aspects of social media and digital interfacing with brands, particularly teens’ preferences in interacting with customer service bots. Platforms like Facebook offer chat bot integrations, which can be a big help in responding to customer questions. However, Gen. Z has mixed feelings on them overall. 49% of teens indicated they’d had a positive experience with them, and 51% indicating negative experiences. 22% of that majority flat out responded that bots simply aren’t helpful. 

Other highlights of the report: 

-83% of teens primarily still pay in cash; 9% have traded cryptocurrency

-Apple has surpassed Rolex as the favorite watch brand of upper-income teens

-Teens feel that racial equality and the environment are their most important political and social issues. Piper Sandler reports that Gen. Z is unique in that they care more about social justice and the environment than previous generations. 

-McDonald’s continued its ranking as the restaurant “most preferred within the Hamburger cuisine category.” Not exactly the catchiest tagline, so they’ll probably stick with “I’m lovin’ it.” 

The full report also touches on many other consumer behaviors and data from their semi-annual survey. At Moroch, we’re all about staying curious, so learning more about Gen. Z and their habits and preferences were great to share with our team. You can check out the full report here.    
posted on
December 6, 2021
written by
Jake Bullington
Social Media Strategist/Manager