Thursday, January 2, 2014

Facebook may not be THE Place to Be, but it's still a Good One

This has been a long time coming, but it's official according to a study by the European Union...teens no longer think Facebook is cool. I know, I know, you're thinking, "great now we have to go on the Twitter or start taking selfies on Snapchat". Well don't limit yourself to 140 characters just yet, let me tell you why.

In the study, Facebook was compared to Instagram (which, ironically, it owns), Snapchat, Twitter, and What's App and it appears the thumbs ups are on the decline.  However, I find these comparators interesting and also revealing. When you look at the networks that were part of the study, there's a pattern that forms: each one of these (if you can even consider What's App a social network) is a specialty network; they focus on one specific type of social sharing:

Twitter, the most popular of the group, is a microblog, where you can only share a taste of the content that hides behind a hyperlink.

Instagram is a forum for sharing images with the world. The filters allow even amateurs to get a little creative with the way they see the world.

Snapchat is also about image sharing, but the caveat is that the images only last for a limited time before they are deleted forever. This makes telling compelling stories a creative's also made Snapchat a popular forum for sexting...

What's App is an alternative platform for texting, which is why I was surprised to find it on this list. It operates much like normal multimedia messaging but it's free and operates globally which is a major draw for users who travel often.

Facebook is different though. It combines almost all of these features into one place. It's a platform for your entire life, to build your digital persona. If LinkedIn is comparable to your job, Facebook is the home you go back to at the end of the day (or during the day if your job allows). Many of us have invested an insane amount of time building our Facebook profiles over the years. We've defined ourselves in the About Me section. We've catalogued thousands of pictures in every aspect of our lives. We put our interests on display by sharing content with the world.  And we've built a network of friends (and sometimes enemies) that we follow and engage with. No matter where we share our thoughts, or no matter who we're talking to, there's a place they can go to get a more complete sense of who we are. It's the hub, of our digital lives.

But maybe this next generation doesn't have that kind of time to invest in their online social lives, and I'm not at all implying that they should spend all their time in front of a computer. These things happen over time. The age group of this population is truly growing up mobile, and they want their technology and lives on-the-go. Facebook isn't bad when it comes to mobile by any means but it's also not one of these other platforms where the content is bite sized and meant to get you on your way quickly. There's also less need to spend time on it when you can easily post to multiple networks at once from another app.

I think also that Facebook is aging. Of course, they're a technology company and the platform is innovating and changing constantly but the core purpose of Facebook is getting older. Facebook is like this generations's the intro to social networking for most people. If what I said before is true, that Facebook is like our hub, many people are likely feeling content with what they've created. Though I'd like to group myself into this category, teens especially are quick with technology and they're quick with social. I imagine that once they set up shop they're quick to expand: have a Facebook because you just have to and then get on the networks you really want to be on.

It's also because for that reason that I think, while it may be on the decline, Facebook isn't going anywhere. And while it may not be what people use most on a day to day basis, people will continue to go home to it at the end of the day.

Even if use is on the decline, it's still strong. For people and brands, the core value of Facebook remains. For people, it's a place to keep the foundation of your digital life and to keep the friends you want to interact with. For brands, it's still the place where they can start to personify themselves and build the voice and life that it will then express on the various other networks. Posts from strong brands get a lot of engagement, both positive and negative. Not all brands can jump right into social and see the results, but Facebook is a great place to build awareness. The platform has such a wide variety of content and interactivity that it's likely you can find a way to get involved. Even in highly regulated industries like healthcare or financials there is likely an advocacy or educational space for you if you think outside the box a bit. As social media experts, we need to be smart and we need to be fast, looking to impress our audience with thoughtful and relevant content all in real time.

I don't believe that young people are exempt from this type of marketing on Facebook either. You may not see as much engagement in the form of comments and likes, but they share and they pay attention. When studies like the one I mentioned come up it makes me think maybe marketers need to think more like Twitter and Instagram when they're on Facebook. Quick. Simple. Visual. Attractive, shiny and smart.

Tell me what your favorite networks are. Tell me why they appeal to you. Tell me what you think of Facebook, even if it's that you hate all the redesigns and changes (though I'll quickly disagree with you). Tell me all these things in the comments section down below.

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