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Facebook is dead

23 JAN
Facebook

OK, so that was a bit of a cheeky headline, I apologise. Don't worry, your cat photos, holiday snaps and incessant baby updates are safe for the foreseeable future.

Teens however are leaving the platform in droves favouring instead a more fluid combination of Twitter, WhatsApp, Snapchat and Instagram. A study of 16-18 year olds late last year showed that, just as their parents and other older users begin to adopt Facebook, younger users are heading elsewhere.

It’s easy to see why Facebook would lose its appeal once it becomes a family affair. Parental friend requests nagging your inbox, those pictures from that party, Mum commenting on your every update – all of this is mortifying to an 18 year old.  

Teens care less about platform loyalty and having to adopt or get their heads around new interfaces - they just move to where the cool kids are. They are also generally less concerned about privacy and potential surveillance. The Faustian pact made with these companies, whereby we supply information to them freely and they decant this into golden marketing juice, seems to not trouble them either.

They are happy to turn their backs on technically superior services (and yes, Facebook is technically superior in the sense that it pretty much combines all that WhatsApp, Instagram etc. offer in one place) and move to more transitory, 'single function' services to communicate and grow their social networks.

So what’s do these other platforms offer? Well, obviously a big plus is that they’re relatively new, so fewer Mums, Dads and other boring over 30’s have crashed the party. Most Facebook users are aged between 25-36, with a growing number of 40+ users adopting the site, whereas the majority of those using photo and video sharing app Snapchat, for example, are 13-23.

Perhaps also, it is the platform itself that is failing to appeal to younger users. There is something sentimental about curating your Facebook account, a process arguably which older users enjoy and younger users have less interest in. Moving away from the ‘scrapbook’ feel of Facebook – where you collect and preserve moments from your life for years to come - these newer platforms have less of a sense of permanence, focusing on short, instant, frequent communication. Facebook feels more like a journal (the Timeline feature deliberately recreates this) whereas Snapchat, Twitter and the like are more like text messaging – short, to the point, and fleeting.  

A virtual old people's home

Us ‘old folks’ (relatively speaking...) who have made a long-term investment in Facebook, are naturally less willing to part with it. For some it's a project they’ve been working on for almost a decade. All their photographs, records of conversations, their virtual address book keeping track of old and disparate groups of friends and family.

Perhaps for the older users Facebook will continue to thrive and always be their social media platform of choice for the forseeable future. It's even conceivable that over the next couple of decades (if it lasts that long...) Facebook becomes the place where the 'old people' hang out. It could still become the virtual retirement home of today's 30+ year olds.

What does this mean to your business?

As we always say, it's about identifying your audience. Each platform appeals to different demographics. If you’re a B2B company it probably doesn’t make much sense for you to be sharing selfies on Snapchat, your time would be better spent using Twitter to connect with other businesses or LinkedIn to weigh in on industry discussions.  If you sell a luxury product which out-prices the average young person, then your company would fare better on Facebook or Pinterest with their older, more affluent demographic. If your customers are older teens and early 20 somethings, now is the time to think about investigating newer platforms. You need to be thinking more creatively and speaking to us about the best way to reach your audience.

Further reading:

http://optimiseblog.co.uk/a-2013-social-media-report/

http://mashable.com/2014/01/09/snapchat-brands-future/

http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2013/dec/27/facebook-dead-and-buried-to-teens-research-finds