First-year college students’ love for social media is growing, and most of that love continues to go to three social networks in particular – Youtube, Snapchat and Instagram.

Those three finished 1-2-3 in my annual survey of first-year School of Journalism and Mass Communication students at Drake University. I gave the survey on the Friday of the first week of classes (so the end of their first week as college students).

A total of 71 first-year students took the survey. They ranged in age from 17 to 19.

The survey asks students to rate social networking sites from 1 (hate it) to 5 (love it). This is the fifth year I’ve conducted the survey, and Youtube, Snapchat and Instagram have finished as the top three networks all five years. For the past four years, those three networks have clearly been separated from others at the top of the list.

Read about past years’ results here: 2013201420152016

Here are some key takeaways from the 2017 survey:

  • Youtube is in the No. 1 spot for the second year in a row and the fourth time in five years.
  • Snapchat jumped ahead of Instagram into second place. Snapchat’s rating has increased every year, and 100 percent of them said they have used Snapchat in the past month.
  • Instagram’s rating fell this year for the first time.
  • While YouTube rates high, it isn’t where these students are spending the most time or where they’re creating the most content.
  • Pinterest had the largest drop in rating. It fell from a score of 3.88 last year to 3.45 this year. And it fell from No. 4 on the list to No. 7.
  • I added two new networks – GroupMe (which debuted at No. 5 in the list) and Houseparty (which did not score well).
  • More students said they have used GroupMe in the past month (58) than said they have used Twitter in the past month (53).
  • I removed seven networks from the list – Vine, Periscope, YikYak, Google+, foursquare, kik and Myspace.

How the class of 2021 rated social networks

This year, I asked students to rate 14 social networks from 1 (hate it) to 5 (love it). Here are the results:

2017 rating Love it (5) Hate it (1)
Youtube 4.56 47 0
Snapchat 4.54 48 1
Instagram 4.32 40 2
Twitter 3.77 27 6
GroupMe 3.73 18 3
Messenger 3.62 16 4
Pinterest 3.45 18 6
Facebook 3.37 10 3
tumblr 3.04 8 8
Reddit 2.76 4 10
Houseparty 2.7 5 11
Linkedin 2.68 2 12
WhatsApp 2.65 7 15
Tinder 2.37 3 19

About the students

A total of 71 first-year students took the survey (last year there were 56).

They all own a smartphone (59 own an iPhone, 11 an Android and one said they own an “other” smartphone).

Twenty-three of them own a tablet (that’s the same percentage-wise as last year’s survey).

When asked on what device they spend the most time (smartphone, tablet or computer), 62 said smartphone, 8 said computer and one said tablet.

I asked them to rate how they feel about social media in general (1=hate and 5=love), and the average score was 4.18. This was up from a score of 4.05 last year and 3.88 the year before. Twenty-nine said they love it and no one said they hate it.

I asked them to rate how they feel about new technology in general, and the average score was 4.35. This is down from 4.39 last year but up from 4.29 the year before. Thirty-five said they love new technology and one said they hate it.

How they’re using these networks

In addition to the survey, I discuss the networks with students to try to get a sense of exactly how they are being used. Here’s my best explanation what they use four of the top networks for:

Snapchat – This is where they communicate with friends on a day-to-day basis. It’s where they are most likely to create content.

Twitter – This is where they are connected with friends and go to see funny posts. They’re active, but not necessarily creating original content.

Instagram – This is where they are connected with friends and post a very edited version of their life – maybe one post every one or two weeks tops. They don’t like the story feature.

Facebook – They’re only here to communicate with family and because classes make them (a few of them referred to this as being on Facebook for “business” reasons).

Past results

Here’s how those numbers compare to past years.

Network 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Youtube 4.46 4.51 4.28 4.54 4.56
Snapchat 4.04 4.16 4.37 4.48 4.54
Instagram 3.99 4.25 4.33 4.52 4.32
Twitter 3.93 3.73 3.55 3.79 3.77
GroupMe N/A N/A N/A N/A 3.73
FB Messenger N/A N/A 3.38 3.52 3.62
Pinterest 3.65 3.84 3.72 3.88 3.45
Facebook 3.71 3.38 3.18 3.57 3.37
tumblr 3.44 3.24 3.14 3.23 3.04
Reddit N/A N/A N/A 2.91 2.76
Houseparty N/A N/A N/A N/A 2.7
LinkedIn 2.71 2.62 2.58 2.95 2.68
WhatsApp N/A 2.47 2.61 2.71 2.65
Tinder N/A N/A 2.13 2.5 2.37
Vine 3.81 3.67 3.37 3.52 N/A
Periscope N/A N/A 2.39 2.89 N/A
YikYak N/A N/A 2.75 2.52 N/A
Google+ 2.85 2.79 2.53 2.5 N/A
foursquare 2.59 2.47 2.43 2.45 N/A
kik N/A N/A N/A 2.32 N/A
Myspace 1.82 1.74 1.79 2.14 N/A

More social media results

I asked them on which networks they spend the most time:

Network Responses
Snapchat 25
Twitter 15
Instagram 14
Youtube 8
Facebook 3
Groupme 2
Messenger 2
Pinterest 2

I asked them on which network they create the most content:

Network Responses
Snapchat 33
Instagram 23
Twitter 11
Facebook 1
Groupme 1
tumblr 1
Youtube 1

I also asked them which networks they have used in the past month:

Network Responses
Snapchat 71
YouTube 67
Facebook 64
Instagram 64
GroupMe 58
Twitter 53
Messenger 49
Pinterest 33
tumblr 24
Tinder 16
Reddit 11
Sarahah 9
Houseparty 9
Whatsapp 8
Kik 6
LinkedIn 5
YikYak 2
Periscope 2
Foursquare 0
Myspace 0
Meerkat 0

My takeaways

Not a lot has changed in how these students view and use social networks in the past five years. For marketers trying to reach this demographic, there are clearly three places to target – Snapchat, Instagram and YouTube. I think YouTube is probably being underutilized by many people trying to reach this demographic.

Twitter appears to be coming back. It’s rating did not change from last year, but it is clearly a place where these students are spending time and creating content.