A new report from Shareaholic shows that for the first time, Facebook is not the preferred network for U.S. teenagers. Facebook-owned Instagram has taken over that top spot, with 30 percent of the teens surveyed saying they use it more than other social networks. In six months, Facebook fell from holding the top spot with 27 percent to being in second place at 23 percent. So teenagers are showing some Facebook fatigue (or boredom) – but should any of that matter to small businesses or marketers?
The answer is complicated. For the past five years, social media marketing has centered on Facebook initiatives–and for good reason. The social network has 1.23 billion monthly active users and Facebook users say they are more likely to purchase an item from a company they follow on the social network than one without a Facebook presence. Facebook has always touted itself as a “free” way for businesses to reach out to their target consumer bases, but that is becoming less of an ultimate truth. In the process of Facebook monetization, the organic reach of brand content has dwindled. Since tweaking its Newsfeed algorithm in December, business pages are finding that 5 percent or less of their followers are seeing nonpaid content. This, coupled with Facebook’s commitment to only turn over 5 percent of the Newsfeed feature for advertising purposes, has driven up Facebook ad prices and companies are paying this premium.
So Facebook ad dollars are rising, despite a decline in popularity in at least one demographic. When looking at other social media spaces that were abandoned by followers in exchange for less-boring options (think MySpace), it would seem that the innovation teams at Facebook would be working overtime to cling to the “best” and “top” spots in every demographic, particularly since its new way of running things with businesses is a money maker.
Take the acquisition of Instagram for $1 billion and the impending purchase of social messaging application WhatsApp for $19 billion. Facebook has even spent $2 billion investing in video gaming hardware goggles – a move that has no apparent direct connection to the social networking arm of Facebook itself. All of these moves point to a much larger outlook for the company than its original social network offering. Think of consumer packaged goods companies like Procter & Gamble that own competing brands and allow them to operate alongside each other, bringing in a variety of customers in the process. That’s what Facebook wants to do too – not eliminate competing ideas but incorporate them all under its umbrella.
So what does that mean for marketers and small businesses? Will there ever be a time that the Facebook bandwagon will need to be abandoned? I’d say that answer is no. Facebook has already proven it can reach consumer audiences and continues to build its user behavior database with each new venture and acquisition. That works to the benefit of small businesses that have come to rely on the original network as a way to reach their audiences. The potential of Facebook (the company, not just the social network) has still not been fully realized and as its audience evolves, so will the company. Even if it costs a little more than it used to, betting on Facebook for audience engagement is still a winning move.
Where do you see the future of Facebook marketing heading?