We’ve been hearing about Facebook’s declining cool factor and decreasing teenage audience all year now. Seems like every month, there’s another new network that’s supposed to be “the next big thing,” in social media, whether it’s Snapchat, WhatsApp, Tumblr, or some other new, upstart social media channel.
Facebook CFO David Ebersman really stoked the flames in a recent earnings call when he admitted that in the past quarter, the company had seen “a decrease in daily users, specifically among younger teens.” Even Mark Zuckerberg has admitted Facebook has something of a teenage problem, although Sheryl Sandberg downplays it.
I don’t know about you, but I’m still on Facebook and I’m finding this fascination with “Facebook’s disappearing teens” a little tiresome at this point. Frankly, from a user point-of-view, I could care less whether Facebook is cool or not, losing teens or gaining them. Facebook might have been shinier, newer and more popular with teens back in the days when it knocked MySpace off its pedestal and was basically the only game in town. But was it ever really that cool?
Then and now Facebook has primarily always been clean, highly interactive, and easy-to-use. It’s also been very successful at entrenching itself into practically every aspect of the Internet. Its far-reaching integration allows users to instantly register for sites they’ve never been to before at the click of a mouse.
Facebook is also where people go to check in and post about major life events; marriages, relationships, divorces, new jobs, current events, news, and even deaths. Facebook is the central social hub on the Internet for many, many people of all ages. And while reports continue to emerge about teenagers leaving the network, the 45 to 54 year old age bracket is now Facebook’s fastest growing demographic.
See the thing about teenagers and . . . well, the rest of us, is that we don’t exactly like to all go to all the same places in the real world. So it kind of makes sense that with all of us now on Facebook, they might want to go somewhere else.
But at the same time, for the rest of us, an exodus from Facebook, simply because teenagers no longer like it as much as they used to, just doesn’t seem like it’s in the cards.
As Facebook’s Sheryl Sandberg said, paraphrasing a quote from the Zuck himself, “We’re not trying to be the coolest. And we’re not trying to be the newest. We’re trying to be the most useful.”
And that’s precisely what Facebook is: the most useful social network. My vacation photos are all there. If I have a party, I use Facebook to invite people. If I want to promote a DJ night or some other project I’m doing, I use Facebook.
So if the teenagers want to go elsewhere, who cares? And who can blame them? Facebook is a decade old after all and many of us who joined in the first few years seem to have settled there. The fact that there are fewer teens hanging about is not likely to convince us otherwise.
Also after some initial hesitation, Facebook has made the savvy decision to dive headlong into enacting a mobile-first strategy. So rather than having a paranoid, kneejerk reaction to any teen Facebook exodus, whether real or imagined, the sensible thing for marketers to do is to figure out where the teens are headed and find a way to reach them there and in the meantime, to keep using Facebook to target the rest of us, never mind worrying about whether it’s cool.