You’ve seen that headline, or a similar one, by now, yes? About how young people are abandoning Facebook in droves, how it’s jumped the shark, how it’s bound for MySpaceCity.
Don’t believe the hype. In the blogosphere, Facebook has been killed off more times than Kenny from “South Park,” left for dead more times than Rasputin, been presumed vanquished more times than Doctor Who.
Q. Is Facebook losing primacy among young people?
A. Maybe. While the plural of anecdote is not data, I see indications many teens may be using Facebook as a network but not their main network any more. We opened our (closed) Accepted Students: Facebook Class of 2018 group about a week ago and nearly 300 accepted students already are making connections and some even said this interaction makes them choose Oswego (not bad for a dead network, eh?). Yet some say they’re not on Facebook much but encourage others to follow them on Twitter and Instagram to get to know them better.
Facebook. The Gateway to Twitter and Instagram. Not exactly Zuck’s next marketing phrase.
In any event, a Pew Research study released last year (albeit from 2012 research) found 94% of teens with a Facebook profile with 81% using it most often of any social network. Even with a 10% or 20% erosion, that’s still pretty strong market penetration.
Q. Is Facebook making it harder on marketers not willing or able to spend money?
A. Signs point to yes. Facebook hinted at this a while but now basically says advertising is an increasingly better way to gain reach than organic (i.e. normal) posts. This doesn’t mean your page is now worthless, just that it faces a stiffer test at getting attention if you can’t spend on advertising. And since Facebook has an annual subscription fee of $0, maybe you get what you pay for. It’s a shame that organizations like the Oswego County SPCA with few resources that are trying to place rescued animals with new homes, get donations to help feed its many sheltered cuties and spread the word about missing pets will find this harder to do, but maybe Facebook will change its mind again at some point.
Q. So, this is all means Facebook could be on decline, right?
A. Perhaps, but what does that mean? Nobody knows, really. As my friend and colleague Gary Ritzenthaler has pointed out, even if half of Facebook users suddenly up and left, it would likely remain the biggest and most influential social networking site. Facebook’s factbook lists 1.2 billion users, so if it declines to, say, 1 billion, does that make it a dead and useless network? Of course not.
Of course it’s sexy to say that Facebook is dead or employ other linkbait headline techniques, quoting such reliable sources as “our office intern,” “some kid we cornered on the street” or “our poolboy’s younger brother,” but those of us who work with students all the time know they still consider Facebook part of their lives. Let me repeat from earlier: Facebook may not be the be-all, end-all social network for teens any more, but chances are it’s still something they use. And if you’re trying to reach (or also reach) adults, the latest Pew Research points to 71% of those 18 and over still using it, 63% daily.
So if you run a Facebook page, what does this mean? It means … well, keep creating awesome content and providing the best customer service you can. If you have an important message and an advertising budget, consider this option … or not. In the greater social media picture, it reinforces that you shouldn’t (and never should have in the first place) put all your eggs in Facebook’s basket. Since Twitter and Instagram can be very powerful channels if done right, if you haven’t looked into them or other potential avenues, you should consider doing so.
But then you should always be testing and analyzing what’s working and not working in your communication, so chances are you already know how well Facebook works for you better than all the doomsaying bloggers in the world.