There’ve been a few reports lately about how younger Facebook users are leaving the social network in droves for smaller ‘niche’ networks. The report states that teens are abandoning Facebook for Twitter or Snapchat (or Instagram or Pinterest etc etc) and leaving only their parents, or ‘uncool’ people, on the networking behemoth.
All of that makes alarming news for social media marketers. Facebook is one of the KEY tentpoles for any good social media strategy. But it’s important to put this into the proper context.
1) You can’t just lose 1 billion users.
Facebook is big. Crazy big. If it were a nation it would be a superpower on par with China and India. It has enough users to conquer Europe, America and the majority of Asia before lunch time. The reports that teens are getting sick of the hegemonic social network is hardly worrying. These teens represent a small fraction of Facebook’s users. Facebook is actively courting the NEXT billion users. It does this through investing in technologies that allow you to access Facebook regardless of your device, convincing you that Facebook and the Internet are in fact the same thing and by breaking down barriers that divide entire cultures. So the 13 year old kid in New York may think that Facebook is passé….but the 30 year old man in Bangladesh believes that it’s the future.
2) We WANT to target the parents
For years marketing has followed a simple creed: target the kids, the kids convince the parents, the parents buy for the kid. That still very much holds true today. But that doesn’t mean that you forget to target the breadwinners of the family. It’s the mothers and fathers that hold the purse strings and if their kids are screaming about some new video game or movie that they want to go see then they’re going to do what they always do: research. Looking up the game or movie on Facebook, or asking their friends, means they’ll get all of the latest news or reviews. If their friends have ‘liked’ the page then that will be a tacit social seal of approval that this game is good enough for their kids.
3) Diversify, diversify, DIVERSIFY!
Facebook’s going to die. It’s the tragic reality of what happens with empires. It doesn’t matter if it’s the Roman Empire, the British Empire or the Facebook Empire. They’re all going to get too big for themselves and collapse under the weight of their own genius (or, in the case of the British, the desire for independence by the natives). Yes. Facebook is now the biggest social network in the world (and growing) but it’s not going to stay that way. It’s eventually going to collapse or become ‘uncool’ like MySpace and simply become a ghost town. This means that you as social media marketers have to ensure that your social strategy does not revolve around one single social network. If you find that your brand can make use of pictures then give Instagram or Pinterest a try, if you find that it’s beginning to revolve around videos then it’s YouTube or Vimeo and if you want to use your social streams as a method of short, sharp communications then Twitter’s your best bet. You should never have all of your eggs in one social networking basket. If you’ve got a Facebook page then that’s fantastic. But add in a Twitter account too just to make sure that you’re not relying on Zuckerberg to stay sane and not press the giant ‘off’ button when he has one too many drinks.
4) One click logins people….one click logins.
Ever go to a site like The New York Times, BuzzFeed or Mashable? Know how simple it is to sign up to these sites? Just pressing one little button: Connect With Your Facebook Account. You just press that one button and suddenly all of your information has been transferred to that site. You’ve logged into it and now have all of the membership opportunities afforded to those that decided to sign up the long way with their email address. Fantastic. Easy. Simple. People aren’t going to give up their Facebook accounts so easily. Many of them use their Facebook logins across the entire Internet. You can bet that Facebook’s taking advantage of that. No matter what site they go to they’ll always be connected to Facebook.
5) Where everybody knows your name
Teens may lambast Facebook as being the last refuge of the social scoundrel but that doesn’t mean they’re going to stop using it any time soon. Their parents are there. But so are their friends, their family members, their everyone and everything related to their social and personal life. It’s the place where they can talk to grandma across the world or play a game or get some great info on their favourite TV show. Because everyone in their lives are on Facebook then it makes sense that they’re there as well. Yes, they may be experimenting with other social networks….but as the report states these social networks tend to have very niche markets. They appeal to only one aspect of a persons life. You go to Snapchat to sext with your friends but you go to Facebook to have conversations with them. You go to Twitter to trade barbs about politics but you go to Facebook to have deeper and more meaningful conversations about campaign finance reform. You go to Instagram to like that photo of your favourite rock star but you go to Facebook to see when they’re touring in your town. These smaller networks offer something but not everything. Sooner or later they find themselves coming back to Facebook because that’s where everyone is.
6) Facebook has lots of money. Lots, and lots, and LOTS of money
But what if a social network does become a bit of a threat to Facebook? What happens then? Well….Facebook can simply buy it. In a deal made over a single weekend Mark Zuckerberg bought photo-sharing site Instagram for (cue evil laugh) ONE BILLION DOLLARS. A billion dollars. With a B. The move shocked the tech world and many thought that it was a foolish decision by a power-addled CEO. Whatever you may think of the price figure it doesn’t negate the fact that it almost ensured Facebook’s supremacy in the photo-sharing space. More photos are posted to Facebook than any other social network. Now, adding Instagram to the mix, you have this one company taking a very, very large slice of this pie. Rumours abounded that Facebook tried to purchase Snapchat for (cue eviler laugh) THREE BILLION DOLLARS but was rejected. Does this mean that Snapchat is going to be the next Facebook? Who knows. Only time will tell. There are very few people that could turn down a 3 billion dollar offer (note to Facebook….if you want to buy Transcending Social Media for 3 billion dollars….I reluctantly accept in advance). The money that Facebook has to throw around means that if they see any budding social network as a threat….they can simply purchase them.
Facebook may be haemorrhaging according to this report…but it’s nothing to be concerned about. It’s not going to die tomorrow. Don’t abandon your Facebook strategy just because you’re losing some teens. You should always be evaluating and reevaluating your strategy as your audience changes. You should always look at other social networks to see where you can capitalise on them….and you should always be engaging with your audience.
Don’t worry. Be happy. Let’s see what 2014 brings.
Happy New Year!