Gen Y loves Instagram: A youth movement for Facebook?

Gen Y loves Instagram according to a recent study published by the Pew Internet and American Life Project.  In fact 67% of 18-29 year old internet users surveyed are what Pew calls image “creators.”  This is a big deal.

Facebook should love that Gen Y loves Instagram

Here’s a riddle, what has two-thirds the users of Twitter with an average age probably 5-10 years younger?  Instagram.  Coincidentally, Facebook closed their deal to acquire it last week.

With an average age approaching 40, one of the knocks on Facebook was that it was skewing older and losing youth (one study states that average age is above 40, though I have some issues with Google’s Double Click Ad Planner as a source).  Yahoo’s CMO Kathy Savitt describes Facebook’s perception with younger users as an application where their parents and grandparents are likely to be (at Lockerz her target audience were Gen Z and Y and she is known for having great insight into those groups).  Instagram doesn’t carry that baggage.

Gen Z loves Instagram too?

As it turns out, Gen Z (the post-9/11 generation) loves Instagram as well.  c|net ran an interesting piece last week detailing how tweens now favor Instagram for precisely the same reason that Savitt explained: their parents and grandparents are on Facebook.  Because of the age restrictions, there isn’t any definitive data to suggest how widespread this is (Like Facebook, Instagram requires users are 13 or older to have an account).  In any case, Facebook has inheirited a huge youth audience.

Mark Zuckerberg claims that he is going to keep Facebook and Instagram separate, and that’s probably a sound strategy.  But as Facebook focuses on it’s mobile product (specifically it’s mobile ad product), expect the ad product to be transferable similar to AdWords.  When Instagram is integrated into Facebook’s Open Graph, the platform that people interact on will probably grow more and more irrelevant.

Gen Y loves Instagram.  This may mean that they love Facebook by proxy.

Representative study without representative ethnicity?

As a post-script, I just wanted to note that Pew points out how under-represented African-Americans and Hispanics were in their study.  This is a huge blind spot, especially since there are social anomalies specific to those populations (such as high Twitter usage by African-American internet users and higher than average smart-phone adoption in both groups).  With characteristics specific to these populations, you can’t assume these photo sharing behaviors to be the same without further substantiation.

Gen Y loves Instagram - Pew Data

Photo Credit

Jim Dougherty

Jim Dougherty

Writer and chief of miscellany at
I'm the guy that wrote the article you just read. Sorry for the typos.
  • Katie Lynn

    I agree, social media is a great, if not necessary, tool for businesses to harness and optimize to reach their target audiences. This article caught my attention because it discusses Gen Y’s love for Instagram. YAYA Connection posted a similar article early this year. Check it out, they have lots of insights on how to effectively target a young market.