Facebook is for Edith and Snapchat is for Timmy

Facebook might be top-dog when it comes to the social media giants but recent estimates indicate its now more appealing to older generations while Snapchat is seemingly stealing its younger customers.

For the first time, Facebook cannot say the majority of 12 to 17 year olds in the US are using the platform at least once a month. These are of course forecasts for the next couple of months, all is not lost yet, but eMarketer believes the social media status quo is changing. Facebook is appealing less to younger generations and Instagram is not picking up the slack as it previously did.

This was at least some sort of consolation. User information was retained in the wider group as those who didn’t sign up, or left Facebook, would usually end up on Instagram. But, the growth in popularity in Snapchat is siphoning away more users. Facebook is still growing, but it is older generations who are adding these numbers; commercially this is not as attractive. Facebook wants youngsters who can be sold to in future years, when they are going through middle age and making bigger purchasing decisions. If it doesn’t capture these users, Facebook decreases in commercial attractiveness to advertisers.

“Snapchat could eventually experience more growth in older age groups, since it’s redesigning its platform to be easier to use,” eMarketer’s Principal Analyst Debra Aho Williamson said. “The question will be whether younger users will still find Snapchat cool if more of their parents and grandparents are on it. That’s the predicament Facebook is in.”

Aside from this conflict, another area to consider would be whether Facebook is able to recapture the lost users. Snapchat has had to content with losing users when they grow a bit older, perhaps this is something investors have learned to accept, but this will be a new challenge for Facebook. When the lost users get older, will they be bothered about Facebook?

While the loss of younger users is a new twist on the Facebook story, the social media platform has been fighting to recapture the enthusiasm of yesteryear. In short, we feel the platform has become less engaging, less interesting and less useful.

Maybe this is the reason youngsters are not engaging with the platform in the same way? When your correspondent joined Facebook it was about connections. Older users might be able to remember what Facebook was, but someone joining today would simply see a wall of videos, news stories, adverts and the occasional update from friends. Maybe platforms like Instagram and Snapchat are just better at providing engaging links to the users personal community.

Something needs to change at Facebook. User numbers are increasing, but this can only go on for so long; there are only so many internet users on the planet. If it starts haemorrhaging younger users who (1) find a more engaging platform, or (2) don’t want to rub shoulders with their parents in the digital world, new ideas will be needed.

Facebook is the dominant social media platform on the planet and it will still be in that position tomorrow. But Facebook should learn from its own rise to prominence; offering something which the user genuinely wants can make a super-brand over-night, while concentrating too much on the commercial side of the business could lead to the end. We’ve been writing more negative stories about Facebook than positive ones in recent weeks; that is never a good sign.

May new ideas are needed, maybe Facebook needs to remember want it did well at the beginning. Whatever changes at Facebook HQ, it needs to keep a wary eye on Snapchat though, it has been coming up with some very good ideas

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