Twitter vs. Facebook: The Great Debate (Update 1)

Updated from 9:44 A.M. to include data from Piper Jaffray survey in eighth paragraph.

NEWPORT BEACH, Calif. ( TheStreet) -- As Twitter continues to grow in both importance and the number of users, teenagers are increasingly turning to the micro-blogging social network. It's not at the expense of Facebook ( FB) just yet, but it could be down the line.

Pew Internet has a report that teenagers are now increasingly using Twitter, with 24% of teenagers having a Twitter account, up from 16% in 2011 and just 8% in 2009. Facebook still dominates the teen market, with 94% of teenagers having a Facebook account, but teens are increasingly saying that Twitter is not a social networking site, but something more.

"When we ask a standalone question about Twitter use, there is consistently a group of users who say they are not users of social networking sites, but they do use Twitter. Looking more closely at the 24% of online teens who use Twitter, 3% say they do not use a social networking site like Facebook," the research report noted.

Increased usage of other social media sites is something that has plagued Facebook. It's part of the reason why Yahoo! ( YHOO) acquired Tumblr this week, to help it regain its "cool" status with the younger demographic, as well as increase eyeballs.

Facebook, to its credit, acknowledged this earlier this year, and is part of the reason the company acquired Instagram.

"We believe that some of our users, particularly our younger users, are aware of and actively engaging with other products and services similar to, or as a substitute for, Facebook. For example, we believe that some of our users have reduced their engagement with Facebook in favor of increased engagement with other products and services such as Instagram," Facebook wrote in its 2012 year end 10-K.

Instagram now has more than 100 million users Facebook CEO Mark Zukerberg acknowledged on Facebook's recent earnings call, and could be poised to start generating revenue for Facebook sooner rather than later.

Facebook has been seen as a stale service, with many teenagers who were surveyed saying Facebook is perceived to be a place where people go to create or share negativity and unnecessary drama. "In contrast to the widespread negative feelings about interactions on Facebook, the focus group participants who used Instagram expressed particular excitement about this social media site," the report says. Teens are increasingly turning to Instagram and other sites that allow for self-expression and the ability to share their perspective, without the added issues they experience on Facebook.

In a recent survey on teens, investment bank Piper Jaffray noted that Facebook's influence is waning, especially as it relates to purchasing decisions. "Approximately 53% of females and 52% of males indicate that social media impacts their purchases with Facebook being the most important, followed closely by Twitter and Instagram. But the popularity of Facebook is waning among teens with 33% citing it as the most important, down from 42% six months ago," the survey said.

This is great news for Twitter, especially as rumors suggest the social networking site is getting ready to go public. I've said previously that Twitter will file its documents later this year, with an IPO to happen in 2014. Everything I'm hearing says that trajectory continues to be in place, though plans could obviously change.

The migration away from Facebook isn't happening yet, but it is something for the Menlo Park, Calif.-based social networking giant to worry about. Should teens start to migrate away from its service in droves, the number of users and, subsequently, advertising dollars, will suffer. Facebook generated $1.458 billion in revenue in its first-quarter, with the majority of that being advertising dollars.

Facebook, to its credit, is trying to increase engagement on its network, with products like Facebook Home. Facebook Home has seen mixed to negative reviews, something that Facebook can't be happy about. It seems that although the design is beautiful, people don't want Facebook taking over their phone, especially if they aren't heavy Facebook users.

The story is pretty clear. Twitter is becoming increasingly important in teens' lives, and not just for a place to tell the world what you had for breakfast. It's a news outlet, and increasingly becoming more relevant to how people can express themselves. Perhaps Facebook can one day again be that place for teens. Just don't count on it any time soon.

-- Written by Chris Ciaccia in Newport, Calif.

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