Are we moving towards a world without Facebook?

This sounds like a social media marketeer’s worst nightmare – a digital marketing world without the stable grounds of Facebook.  But, that’s almost what the recent study by PEW Research Center is pointing towards.

In a study conducted by the organization in April, 2018 – teens from the US were asked to talk about their social media use.  Here are some topline stats from the study:

A Digital Marketing World Without Stable Grounds of Facebook

–       51% of US teens said they use Facebook. However, Instagram was in use by 72%, and Snapchat was shortly behind with 69%.

–       34% of US teens said they think Facebook is for older people and parents.

–       Youtube is the most popular platform with 85% usage amongst teens.

–       45% of teens are online constantly, with youtube and snapchat being the app they checked the most.  Facebook is sitting at 10%, versus Snapchat’s 35%.

Sure, these numbers are not all that bad at first glance.  However, when we take a few stats into account to shed light in the world to come – it starts getting a little dicey.

I am talking about the fact that 34% of US teens think Facebook is for older people.  Facebook, for at least my generation, was a thing for the youth, teens specifically.  Parents coming on the channel was annoying to say the least, and felt absolutely invasive to say the worst.  That established, since that time one thing has happened which has changed the horizon almost entirely: I, along with my generation, grew up.  We grew up to a point where we are now looked at as grown-ups by the current teens.

And like we helped Facebook become what it is today, the upcoming teen generation will be responsible in setting up the next best thing – if this one doesn’t suit their needs.  And this study shows their needs are being met elsewhere.  They are looking at instant content-rich platforms like Instagram and Snap.  Sure, the user numbers do not add up to even coming close to that of Facebook’s, but think the next 10 years here.

Instagram, last year in September, announced over 500 million active users visit them every day.  This number is absolutely staggering on its own – and I believe requires very little comparative information to seem impressive.  And you couple that with information from this study – you realize Instagram is the second most used app by teens in a day.  Facebook is far far down that list now.

This spells trouble in a lot of different places – but especially for marketeers.  The main component we sell, as marketeers, is content in a relevant place, with a thriving and receptive audience.  And our confidence in Facebook has not budged in all these years, because it continues to be a channel which has made our jobs the easiest ever.  It continues to provide the most advanced ad experience amongst all competition, so far.  Because of this it dominates our daily professional lives – with clients finally trying to catch a seat on the Facebook marketing train after years of convincing, in part due to the legit business impact success stories floating around.  It has taken us a long long time to get here, and just as we got here and started taking off our evening jackets – the train track started getting a little bumpy.

Groups and forums are still filled with Facebook advertising experts and the organization itself has evolved its own products to help these experts sell more in all sorts of avenues.  Lead generation, video ads, pixel tracking – all that jazz.  And while the Earth continues to revolve around the sun, we know for sure that the social media giant will keep innovating on its feet to make our lives even better.  But perhaps, they should start focusing on marketeers less and more on their general audience.

There is a chink in the armor today – in the 10 year horizon, when these teens grow up to reach where I am sitting now, they might not use facebook in its entirety – or use it like we held on to our Yahoo or Hotmail email addresses: sparsely.  Without this audience on the platform, all our efforts today will be futile.

Present day in Pakistan, we see our budding content creators crying foul about Facebook’s algorithms, and rightfully so, whilst struggling to find a common alternate platform to group on.  Youtube, Instagram and Snapchat are the three obvious choices they are looking towards – but it does feel like a disjointed effort so far.  I see these creators picking and choosing a best of two from these three options and trying to make it work for them.  That said, a few timelines later, when they do successfully band together and choose a platform (I am torn in my speculation-based vote for Youtube or Instagram) – it will be safe to say that the Facebook platform will never be the same as what we knew it to be.

Content has always been the king of digital since day 1, we have all heard and said it.  But now comes the multi-dimensional content world.  Different versions of various contents, spread across multiple platforms.  The audience at large now only cares about the content they are looking for, everything else is an unwelcome distraction.  Reconnecting or connecting has moved into a secondary objective position, ironically, and they do not need a specific platform for that anymore.

The new-age social media platforms understand that better than Facebook arguably, and we are seeing a crazy innovation spree happening with each.  Snapchat with its new UI, Instagram with it’s Insta TV and Youtube Music as a sign of youtube exploring breaking up its giant (and frankly, a little all over the place) structure into smaller focused groups.  Not to say Facebook isn’t innovating either, their focus on content creators is definitely primed with their new monetization plans and dedicated tools for them – however, their constant algo changes haven’t done them any favours with the audience recently.  This was coupled with a case of horrible timings syndrome with the Cambridge Analytics debacle.   Safe to say, this year has been off to a very anti-Facebook start, and it isn’t looking to be slowing down anytime soon.

What would be interesting to witness, however, is a world where Facebook is not the solid bed that all marketeers and audiences throng to.  With the study, coupled with other strings of information, it looks like that might just be the case any time in the next 10 years.  Who takes the crown? Lord knows, at this time.  Maybe the monopoly might break after all to begin with.  But one thing’s for sure, digital marketeers have their work cut out for them in finding the next best thing to park their clients dollars in.

Also Read: Facebook Augmented Reality Ads in News Feed will Make Shopping Easier for You

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