TikTok’s usage rate has flattened among Gen Z users still in their teens, but it is still ahead of its rivals, according to data from Forrester’s 2023 Youth Survey. However, nearly a third of teens now use Reels at least once a week and Shorts is also gaining steam.
The findings show a one point drop in the percentage of teens using TikTok at least once per week from 69% in 2022 to 68% in 2023. However, the weekly rate of usage is still much higher than the 63% it clocked in at two years ago. TikTok has also found itself ahead of one of its main competitors, YouTube, for the first time. YouTube saw its weekly usage among teens drop three points year-over-year (YoY) to 66%. This firmly puts TikTok in the lead.
“TikTok’s surge in popularity over the past three years has earned it a top spot as the most used ‘social media’ platform among U.S. teens,” said Mike Proulx, vice president and research director for Forrester’s CMO practice, in an email to Marketing Dive.
Forrester’s Youth Survey for 2023 had responses from nearly 5,000 U.S. teens between the ages of 12 and 17. It was fielded between July and September. Weekly usage of social media platforms have been tracked by the company for the past three years.
Short form wars
TikTok has become a go-to platform for marketers and teens alike, despite looming threats of bans from states such as Montana. In fact, 75% of marketers anticipate increasing their spending on the platform. TikTok’s short-form video format has been key to its success, with the app averaging 150 million monthly active users in the U.S. TikTok users average 1.5 hours on the app daily. TikTok is expected to gain the majority of linear TV budgets for Gen Z minded marketers in 2024, according to Proulx.
TikTok’s success has prompted the development of lookalikes. Legacy companies such as Meta and Alphabet have dipped their fingers into the short-form pie, with Instagram developing Reels while YouTube developed Shorts. These short-form alternatives have quickly picked up steam. Reels saw an 11 point YoY increase in weekly usage to 30%, per Forrester. YouTube’s Shorts has also experienced a similar uptick, jumping six points to 15%.
“What’s interesting is that TikTok usage peaked in 2022 and has, effectively, plateaued in 2023, according to Forrester’s data,” said Proulx. “In the pureplay short-form video space, TikTok is by far still the leader but Reels gained steam.”
However, TikTok is not competing with Reels and Shorts, according to Forrester. Reels and Shorts have become increasingly integrated into the interfaces of their respective apps, meaning TikTok is competing against Instagram and YouTube. This may explain why TikTok is experimenting with longer uploads.
Short video, meet AI
AI is a significant player in the growth of Reels, according to the report. Reels helped to drive a more than 40% increase in time spent on Instagram, according to Meta’s Q3 earnings report. Reels is driven by Meta’s AI-based recommendation algorithm, helping to drive results.
Given the fast paced growth of Reels, Instagram could provide an alternative for marketers if TikTok were to be banned in the U.S. Additionally, it points to the need for marketers to avoid putting all their eggs in one basket.
“It’s an important reminder for brands to diversify their short-form video spend and not rely on just one platform,” said Proulx