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Facebook recently celebrated its 12th birthday, and in that relatively short period of time, the social media platform has become a mainstay in the lives of 1.44 Billion people (to put that number in perspective, about 20% of the global population now has a Facebook account). According to We Are Social, however, Facebook may be falling out of favor with the youngest generation of internet users (13- to 18-year-olds). The U.K.-based digital marketing firm found that only a third of Facebook’s American user-base is under 30 years old, and 17% more Facebook users are over the age of 40 than those under 30.
In lieu of these developments, brands looking to market to young audiences must identify the reasons why teens are now “unfriending” Facebook in record numbers and where, if not on the world’s most widely-used social platform, teens are now spending their time.
Courtesy of the Wall Street Journal
Teenagers are still spending lots of time on the internet – a whopping 9 hours a day, according to a CNN report; they’re just not spending it on Facebook. In 2015, Piper Jaffray’s twice-annual survey of over 125,000 teenagers found that 33% of U.S. teens chose Instagram as their favorite social media platform, while 19% said that Snapchat was the most important social media platform in their lives. Facebook, by comparison, was deemed most important by only 15% of respondents. Another report by Frank N. Magid Associates Inc. found that the percentage of 13- to 17-year-old American Facebook users slipped from 94% in 2013 to 88% this year (Bloomberg).
For brands trying to capture the attention of young audiences, these surveys speak for themselves: Instagram and Snapchat are where teens prefer to be, so that’s where your content, advertising, and influencer marketing campaigns should be focused as well.
One of the reasons teens are now avoiding Facebook is because, as the Huffington Post’s Sue Scheff says, Facebook has become the social networking site of choice for parents and grandparents. In the same way that Snapchat has captured younger audiences, Facebook has expanded to attract new, older users – only 55% of people who use Facebook Messenger are younger than 37-years-old, while 86% of Snapchat’s users are younger than 37.
Facebook’s uncoolness among teens can thus be viewed as a social and cultural shift rather than some inherent flaw in Facebook’s platform or technology. Teenagers want their own “space” and privacy on the internet – a privacy that Snapchat’s disappearing photos and videos, coincidentally, affords them well – and knowing that Mom, Dad, and Grandma can see everything a teen posts on Facebook is likely the reason many young users are abandoning the network for apps and platforms that parents still find foreign.
Advertisers take note: When marketing to teens and Millennials, create stories not ads. Producing targeted, exclusive content through channels popular with younger demographics and collaborating with their favorite social media influencers can boost the likelihood that marketing campaigns will resonate with intended audiences.
While some teens have abandoned Facebook for Instagram, Snapchat, & Vine, teens who still frequent the platform are now using Facebook differently than they did in the past. Instead of sharing updates, photos, and videos about their lives, young users now get on Facebook to peruse through 3rd-party links and learn more about what’s happening with friends, relatives, and the world around them.
For marketers, this engagement makes Facebook a viable channel for sharing valuable content, but only if brands take time to discover what types of stories, videos, and photos teens truly care about. Using Facebook as a means to cross-promote content, campaigns, and brand sponsorships on other social media platforms is another great way brands can leverage Facebook’s established reach to improve the visibility and impact of each marketing campaign.