With a user base that has surpassed one billion, Facebook would be the third-largest country in the world, having a population greater than the United States and with only China and India in its sights. However, the once-burgeoning social network is starting to lose its fan base. Teenagers, the trendsetters of all things digital, appear to be leaving the social party in favor of other platforms, specifically ones that appeal to more niche categories and capitalize on specialization, exclusivity, and most importantly, privacy.
What has changed at Facebook?
The phrase “Facebook Friends” has become a loose term to umbrella everyone who has access to your page. For many, the spectrum ranges from friends and family to colleagues and business contacts. Unlike the Boomers, who appreciate the convenience of Facebook’s integration features, teenagers have increasingly lost interest in the content that is being published on the News Feed. The intimacy that Facebook once offered has been commoditized in a way in which people no longer really care about the majority of the updates from their “friends.” Now, these savvy teenagers are becoming more sensitive to the fact that the content they post is being shared with the rest of the world. This, coupled with the freedom and excitement people originally, but seemingly no longer, felt when sharing their personal stories on the Internet, has driven people away.
From public to private
While digitally documenting every aspect of one’s life was addicting at first, the novelty has since worn out. Gone are the days where teens felt compelled to share every detail of their lives. They are turning toward platforms they have more control over monitoring, like Instagram and Twitter. The privacy settings are much more manageable and don’t change as frequently as Facebook’s, which has become a nuisance to update with each new policy roll-out. The Facebook Graph Search, for example, has made photos that many Facebook users had previously hid from their profile, readily available to not only their Facebook friends, but also the general public.
Teens today have more at stake than the teenagers of a decade ago. Profiles can easily be searched by a potential college recruiter or, years down the line, an employer. This newfound appreciation for privacy gives reason for the success of social apps like Snapchat, where images automatically destruct after a few seconds of viewing.
The attraction of niche platforms
Much like their Millennial counterparts, teenagers make up an audience that craves options. Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr are all popular forms of social media among the teenage demographic because each offers unique features that are different from the rest. Brands have an enormous opportunity to tailor content to not just the audience, but the platforms and channels that they occupy. Free People, for example, turns its customers into models by asking its them to post images of themselves in the company's clothing with specific hashtags relating to the item they are wearing. Some of those images are even posted on the Free People website. This way, potential buyers can see how a pair of jeans looks in real life while users have complete control of what is posted.
The explosion in popularity that Facebook has experienced over the past five years has seemingly detracted from the value proposition it once offered users. Teens, oftentimes the demographic most nimble in shifting their consuming behavior, might be a red flag for Facebook and may prompt a reevaluation of what the social media landscape will look like in the future.