What will happen when Teenagers leave Facebook?

Posted on Posted in Beloved Brands Explained

tumblr_lgfj0tfVVo1qdetk0o1_400I have two teenagers at home, so I can safely call myself the world’s foremost EXPERT ON TEENAGERS!!! Actually, as a parent of teenagers, I have absolutely no clue what’s going on.  But that’s a whole different blog. What I have noticed in 2013 is that my two teenagers aren’t using Facebook at all. A sample of two: my 16-year-old has only 5 posts this year and my 15-year-old has 7 posts. I know 40 year-olds that have that many posts in a day, posting anything from photos of cute cats rolling on the grass to a hilarious video of an old lady dancing to 28 photos of their 3-year-old at the zoo pointing to a Lion or commenting on “what’s a color without the letter E in it”.  

And we can’t figure out for the life of me why teenagers would want to leave this cool and fun party?  Actually, the answer is pretty easy: “YOU GUYS ARE SUCH LOSERS”. I hear that one every day. Keep in mind, we drop them off where we can’t be seen. This is the same thing that goes for social media. Don’t embarrass me!

Facebook was originally developed by College Students for College students and then quickly followed by High School students.  It became the place to be around 2007. Then 20 somethings got on, then Moms then snuck on in 2010 and now….Grandmas are on there. The biggest growing demographic is 55+. And they are commenting on photos. OMG!!!  WTF!!!  IKR!!!  GTFO!!! We had to tell my mom not to comment on my daughter’s Facebook page anymore for fear she would be unfriended and blocked. We are already blocked so we know what that feels like. It stings.

This is pure comedy, an example of the horror teens are facing. It’s a mother trying to defend her son, on his girlfriend’s Facebook page. My guess is they are no longer dating. 


Are we starting to get a picture of why the teens are leaving Facebook? Just keep repeating this and it will help you understand teens: “YOU GUYS ARE SUCH LOSERS”. And then maybe go slam your door.  

Let’s look at the Facts

  • The active number of Facebook users in the US is down 7.4% in 2013. The average age continues to climb every year, with 65% of Facebook users are now over 35 years old. The biggest complaint people have is that it’s boring. As my friend says “how come people will watch videos of cats falling off a sidewalk on-line, but if we said that’s a TV show, no one would watch it”. The answer is likely novelty.  
  • Moms have gone on Facebook in droves:  72% of Moms are now on Facebook. Half of them said they are really just going on to keep tabs on their kids. And 74% of Moms say they check their kids Facebook several times a week.  Slide1
  • On the flip side, one in three teens is embarrassed by their parents’ Facebook comments. The problem is that your teenagers know you’re spying. And they don’t appreciate it. Over 30% of teens say they have unfriended their parents. Teens complain they don’t get enough privacy on Facebook.  
  • Teens continue to turn to smartphones as their primary source and as a result prefer App-based programs such as Snapchat, Twitter, KIK Messenger, Ask FM and Instagram. Adults can’t even find these and when they do, they can’t even work them. And when you figure it out, teens will just move on to something else.
  • A recent study found 33% of teens called Facebook the most important social network, closely followed by Twitter with 30%.  Twitter is significantly gaining. Just 6 months ago, the scores were 42% to 27%.  

So now what happens? 

A few things come to mind.  

  • Kids want something that is uniquely their own. It reminds me of what happened to the Gap Clothing store. Back in the 1990s, it was a cool brand for teenagers. Then Baby Gap and Maternity Gap meant teens would now be wearing the same clothes as their cute little nephew or their hugely pregnant Aunt. Total Horror. So the teens stopped going and then the pregnant aunt didn’t want to dress like someone uncool. So sales tumbled. This could be a metaphor for Facebook. Once you are everything to everyone, you end up nothing and to no one.   
  • One less chance for Control Freak Moms: If a lot of moms are on Facebook only to spy on their kids, maybe they’ll now move on and stop using Facebook so much. How many pictures of Cats can we really “Like” while waiting for your little precious to post something you can tell her is totally inappropriate? And other moms are likely only on Facebook because it’s the cool thing that teens do. Once they find out it’s no longer cool, we could have our new version of the tipping point that Gap went through.
  • Advertisers are confused by Social Media yet again. Just as they were finally able to start putting numbers to social media, the whole world has changed yet again. Advertisers want to know reliable sources for where to invest their advertising dollars. They need payback and if the audience keeps moving, then it’s hard for them to have a steady reliable place to invest in.

The same problem continues:  How do we monetize Social Media platforms?

Most social media platforms follow the same pattern. They launch with a unique way of communicating that is a dramatic improvement over prior methods. There is minimal advertising because they are focused more on gaining a large following that might take a year or two. Plus, they are so unproven, making it very hard to get advertisers to buy into it. They end up with a large audience but no proven method of making money from that large audience. And then they take it public with a promise that “we’ll now use advertising to our huge audience to drive future revenues”. teens-on-cell-phonesThe claim is that the value of Social Media platforms should not be based on current revenue streams but on future revenue sources. They say “trust us, this will be huge”. Right? You’ve heard this story before.  But as they said in Jerry McGuire: “Show me the money!!!”  

We have to be able to see how a social media platform can make money. With some of these sites, I’m not seeing it yet. But now, as Facebook is still trying to figure out how to monetize its huge user base, that user base is starting to leave. Down 7.4% is pretty significant for something that is free. The new mediums they are leaving to look like a total fad. How do these new vehicles make money? There are no ads on Instagram or Snapchat. Yes, Facebook now owns Instagram for a tidy $1 Billion. But how do you now make money on it? By the time they figure out how to monetize, the teenagers are likely already moving on to what’s next. And the cycle continues.

Facebook had quickly become the wonder-drug of Social Media, the one powerhouse that everyone was engaged in and Advertisers were starting to understand. Will there be a new version of the mega social media platform or will the future just be fragmented into unique platforms for unique groups?  Does that make it harder or easier on Advertisers?  Yes, there will be better segmentation but confusion over how to go about reaching. Too many excution options for too many media choices.  

Is Facebook at a tipping point? Will they just become the social media site for the over 30?

What’s your next move Facebook?

Here’s a presentation that can help Brand Leaders to get better Media Plans.