Facebook has long held the crown as the king of the social networks, and shows no sign of losing it in the near future.
There is a theory in technology that any tech that is in popular use currently, can be predicted to last as long as it already has again, and while there are some obvious flaws to this way of thinking, it does suggest we’ll be looking at close to another decade of Facebook use at the very least.
However, as Facebook’s uptake has been so universal, some interesting things have begun to happen to it as a social network.
Most of these are positive from Facebook’s perspective, for example, Facebook is the only social network the majority of social media users rated as an "essential utility" in a recent study, however one area where Facebook seems to be losing ground is with the teen market.
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The Aging Facebook User Base
Facebook has certainly caught on with the older generation, with an estimated 56 percent of online adults over 65 revealed as having Facebook accounts in a 2014 study.
This is high, but Facebook’s core user base appears to be people in their twenties, thirties and forties.
This is understandable, if you think that Facebook users who adopted Facebook around the time of the first smartphones in 2007, even if they were 18 at the time, would now be in their mid twenties.
Facebook is a platform that becomes harder to leave the more time you spend on it as you grow a larger network, so very few people abandon it once they have connected with a lot of friends.
This means that as people in their late teens and twenties adopted it when it was new and fresh, are staying there as they grow older.
However, new users tend to be people whose social circles are already on Facebook, such as older people.
For teens want to start using it, their friends need to all do the same, otherwise it is just a place where their parents hang out.
Because we are not seeing young people adopt Facebook en masse in the same way the generation that is now in its late twenties to mid thirties did a few years ago, it is easier for teens to stay away.
Their social lives are not already entrenched in Facebook’s culture.
What Is Putting Teens Off Facebook?
It has been proposed that the main reason why teens are more reluctant to be on Facebook is privacy.
Not, as you might think, the kind of privacy issues that concern older people around data security, but the same privacy issues that have always concerned teenagers.
Their parents use Facebook, and their teachers, as well as countless other people who they don’t necessarily want peeking in on their interactions with their friends, their selfies, and the things they are sharing.
For the generation before, Facebook was a fun and cool way to be social, but to them, it is potentially a place where they are going to be checked up on or embarrassed.
This is the downside, from Facebook’s perspective, of having universal utility and appeal, nothing turns off young people faster.
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What Are Teens Using Instead?
While teens may not be as active on Facebook as they used to be, this does not by any means mean they are shunning social media.
On the contrary, they are among the biggest users of social media as a whole.
However, they statistically seem to favor Instagram, a photo sharing network, and Snapchat, a messaging system that is picture focused.
Teens also seem to like Tumblr more than Twitter for microblogging, which shows that Facebook isn’t the only mature social network losing their attention.
Teens appear to enjoy sharing photos, and also using apps like Snapchat, which does not broadcast but instead, message people in their networks privately.
Instagram, interestingly, is owned by Facebook, so even though Facebook may be losing the teens, its general empire still seems to be keeping them in the fold.
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What Does This Mean for Marketers Who Use Facebook?
You may think that a decline in any demographic would make Facebook a less appealing prospect for marketing, but actually, in most cases this is not true.
Marketing to an audience of predominantly working aged people is, in fact, better for most products and services, because teens have very little spending power independent of their parents.
While the small percentage of brands and businesses who need to capture the attention of teens directly should now be among the companies looking at marketing opportunities on things like Snapchat and Instagram, which are becoming far more heavily used in this way, those who are already seeing success using Facebook are likely to continue to do so.
In fact, if you check out the most recommended apps for marketing small to medium sized businesses, integration with Facebook is still an important feature.
Perhaps there will be a perceived shift in the way Facebook is seen, from being something innovative and young to something more wholesome and accessible.
Those of us who have grown up with it are now used to seeing our grandmothers on there, and our friends who used to post party photos are now posting pictures of their kids. But when we think about whether those kids themselves will want to be a part of a network that contains their mother’s whole albums of them in various ‘first day at school’ type shots, it is easy to see why they wouldn’t.
It is perhaps Facebook’s own inclusivity that is alienating teens, and this is only likely to continue as just about every preteen kid today has had their entire childhood shared on the network.
For marketers, Facebook may become the online equivalent of a TV advertising slot in the middle of a soap or a documentary. Great for reaching a wide audience of people with predictable tastes, but not your first stop if you want to look innovative or hip.