Can Facebook Get Smart About Older Folks?
Yes, this is just one study, but my gut -- and my one-person focus group consisting of the 16-year-old male in the bedroom next door -- tells me that, increasingly, older demographics are where it’s at on Facebook. And that, to some observers, is nowhere.
Indeed, the same study said that the number of users aged 55+ and up on Facebook has increased by 80% since three years ago. Not to mention that whenever I’m on Facebook, I am surrounded by mature adults. Yes, that’s partly because I, too, am a mature adult -- or at least know how to act like one -- but I’ve noticed that the people in my demo who aren’t on Facebook are outliers. Practically everyone is there.
For most Facebook watchers, the platform’s response to a possible loss of its youth cachet would be to find a way to get, or buy, it back. (Snapchat, anyone?) But I’d like to see Facebook embrace a different kind of opportunity: the chance to grow old with its audience. Maybe not to 55+, but maybe to 25 or even a geriatric 30. It’s a smarter move than you might think.
Why? Because it’s pretty hard to build your business on consumers who are inherently fickle. Just ask the guy who invented Silly Bandz, or Crocs. Usually, when the youth market embraces a product, it has no second acts. And yet, tech consumers -- and the technology industry -- have always suffered from this problem, moving on to the next thing with such rapidity that individual tech companies are forever trying to stay one step ahead. Just ask Marissa Mayer if you want to know how hard that is.
But take a minute to notice the one thing that connects Silly Bandz, Crocs and tech: all were once embraced by the youth market. But you don’t have to get that much older to get to a point where you’re not as fickle. Though the marketing meme that older people are set in their ways (at least in terms of buying toothpaste ) has been way overdone, even slightly mature demographics aren’t as likely to move on from something all that quickly. When you’re juggling a demanding job, a family, and who knows what else, who has the time to constantly switch social platforms?
And that’s where the opportunity lies for Facebook. It’s one thing for 16-year-olds to essentially trade in Facebook for the hot new thing. From what I can tell, the time they aren’t spending in school, they are spending staring at their phones. They have no bills to pay, no lawns to mow (sigh), and no carpools to drive.
Meanwhile, with older demographics, the friends we’re connected to on Facebook keep increasing and increasing, and who has the time or inclination to move? It’s not so far into one’s adult life when these considerations start to come into play. And as I’ve said many times before in this column, as the bonds on social networks continue to accrue, so do the disincentives to move. And, by the way, we older demographics have a lot more money to spend than the average 16-year-old. We should be where it’s at.
Do I expect Facebook to listen to me? No. But I still have the wisdom of the ages, and a lot of ancient Facebook friends.