Last month I wrote about the traumatic experience that was deleting my Facebook account and why so many people around the world are losing interest in the platform to the point of ‘unfriending’ it – just like me. There were a number of reasons discussed as to why Facebook is becoming less popular from a personal and consumer perspective, namely: concerns about data privacy, the problems with Facebook Timeline and finally, the potential negative psychological effects of using the platform on the individuals mental wellbeing. This month I would like to discuss the issues with Facebook from the perspective of brands and businesses.
First of all, I would start by saying we don’t believe that Facebook has reached it’s demise, just yet. It is still an important part of many marketing plans and, unfortunately, still one of the more favourable option when it comes to seeking out certain target audiences (i.e. housekeepers with kids). But it is in decline just the same… and there are plenty of signs this is set to continue for the foreseeable future. To some people this may people seem baffling because, in many ways, Facebook has reshaped our modern relationship with the internet but I would ask those people to consider four overall points:
Too Big to Fail?
Remember Bebo? MySpace? MSN? Nothing is ever too big too fail. And that is probably more true in the fast paced world of digital, than anywhere else. Google understands that. That’s why (despite its size) it buys every innovative new startup that could be a future threat. Facebook’s numbers have flatlined, and in some cases, decreased. So no, it’s not the social equivalent of ‘nobody got fired for buying IBM’.
We’ve Been Here Before…
Secondly, this cycle is by no means new. It is just the natural course of a new media platform. When TV or Newspapers began for example, on a local level there were a finite number of options available to consumers. Not so today – where content and consumer are king and that consumer can choose when, where, how and in what format they access that content. It is no different for social media today.
To put it simply, we are seeing the dilution of audiences across numerous social platforms – that are more niche and suited to consumers specific needs at a certain time. LinkedIn is one such excellent example, as is Instagram and Whatsapp (both Facebook owned, as Zuckerberg sets about readying his lifeboats well in advance) and Pinterest, Reddit, SnapChat, Umano, Whisper, Tumblr, Vine, Ask, MeetUp… well, you get the idea. And this dilution of consumers across niche social and digital platforms, makes it all the more important for your brand to gain a strong grasp on social – if you want to see the highest return on investment possible. Long term, this is a good thing for brands. It also gives you a second chance to ‘win’ on a platform that fits your business really well, if you were late to the Facebook party.
The Mammy Effect
Facebook is no longer popular with under 25s. Even Zuckerberg himself has admitted that in terms of hitting that younger demographic, ‘coolness is done’ for Facebook.
Many articles will report that this is due to the ‘mammy effect’ (i.e. your mother being on there and it hence no longer being a utility with ‘cool factor’). They will also report that Facebook has lost out to Twitter this year in terms of importance for 16-24s. However, the reality is a little more complex. Again, it is down to the diversification of platforms. SnapChat, for example, is used by 80% of 15-24 year olds here. It depends on your audience – their age with this group, where they live, what they’re into, and what they’re interested in doing online, that determines this ‘most important’ platform for them. So any agency that just tells you ‘it’s all about Twitter now’ are just fad chasers who don’t really understand the complexities of digital, your audience or probably, your brand.
Outside of targeting implications in terms getting those audience percentages, we must also consider the context. Just as you place a print ad with consideration of the sort of readership a magazine may have and the frame of mind readers are in when reading it, we must also make these contextual considerations on social platforms. If Facebook’s timeline is becoming an uncool irritant of randomness, what does it say about your brand sitting in the middle of all that? Are people really as susceptible to your message as they could be on other smaller, but more specific platforms?
Double Entry Fee
Finally, the most important reason to consider other social media – unfair costs. Imagine you paid into a concert, went up the stairs, only to be met by another ticket booth to get in at the door? Well, that’s essentially what Facebook asks marketers to do now. First, you paid to get the fans – and many thousands of brands will have put a lot of effort in gathering over the last decade. Now, they want you to pay to reach those same fans, every time you put content out there. Unfair? Hell, yes. And up until now, Facebook have had a very short ‘well if you don’t like it, you know where the door is’ attitude to marketers. A big difference from how patient, helpful and open to trying things (read: ‘hungry for your business) many of their competitors can be…
Facebook may still be a favourite for the wolves of Wall Street but lads at Madison Avenue have had just about enough.
P.S. Please do not view this as advice regarding selling/buying Facebook shares if you have them – this post is in relation to the Facebook platform, not the health of the company overall, who have numerous products.