Why Facebook shouldn’t care if kids don’t care about Facebook

Mark Zuckerberg. (Photo by Robert Scoble via Flickr.)

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg. (Photo by Robert Scoble via Flickr.)

Facebook is doomed because the kids aren’t using it. At least, that’s the popular theory following a report this week saying that the social network might as well be “dead and buried” to many teens.

Sorry, but here’s the reality: Facebook isn’t going anywhere, at least not yet, because the teens who find it passé now will find gravitate back toward the social network as they get older.

I’m speaking from experience. When I was in high school, I’d proudly say, eyes rolling, that if it wasn’t for everyone around me being on Facebook, I’d never touch the service again — preferring to spend my time on Twitter, which was far better for following the news of the day. And when I was already seeing my friends for hours on end Monday through Friday, I didn’t need to hear about that time they spent a weekend puttering around Monterey through Facebook, because I was going to see them right when they got back.

Now, in my 20s, my friends have scattered, and keeping up with them is harder. But Facebook gives us all a chance to see and share what’s going on in our lives in a way that makes it easy to catch up on what people have been up to when it’s convenient for each of us. Snapchat and other hip new competitors don’t offer that.

blairpullPart of the reason so many people are keeping an eye on teenagers’ interest in Facebook is that they remember what happened to Myspace, the last darling of the social media world, which was dethroned after Facebook came on the scene, and teenagers fled for its blue, white and Helvetica-laden shores.

Here’s the problem with that: Pundits are basing judgments about Facebook’s future on Myspace’s past. There’s nothing about the teenaged brain that makes teens the best judge of a social network’s potential. Myspace didn’t appeal to anyone older than 25, and so when teens fled, the site’s user base crumbled. Facebook doesn’t have that problem because it appeals to a broader range of people.

13-17-year-olds aren’t Facebook’s target demographic. For many of those kids, their social life is fairly contained – they’re spending much of their time awake in close proximity to their school, and by extension, the vast majority of their social network. While many of them will have a small group of far-flung friends and relatives among their friends on the site, those people will make up a significant minority of their social graph.

Meanwhile, Snapchat, which is viewed as a surging star of the social media world, is tailor-made for that age group. After all, what teenager wouldn’t kill for the ability to send a message that’s designed to be nigh impossible for meddling adults to see?

Compare that to the trajectory of an 18-year-old. Their entire physical social network is about to be mostly shattered, with their peers traveling across the country (and potentially across the world) to attend different educational institutions, or heading off to different jobs. That’s where Facebook excels – tying together the threads of a life that involves people moving away from home.

Facebook’s own numbers show the strength of the social network’s position. The company’s last quarter saw a 25 percent year-over-year increase in the site’s daily active users.

Does this mean Facebook is invincible? Certainly not. There’s a lot they can do to alienate their audience, and drive people away from the social network, including acting too hastily to bring lucrative video ads to the masses. But the company isn’t constantly teetering on the precipice of failure, waiting to be pushed overboard by an age bracket that was the target demographic for Neopets not too long ago.

Yes, we should pay attention to which technologies the kids are using. But we should also understand why — and recognize that they, too, will grow up someday.

  • http://www.ColinChristianson.com Colin Christianson

    Totally agree with you on all of this and explain it to the neigh sayers in a similar way. There is huge opportunities as well that haven’t even been tapped into for facebook too outside of just ad revenue. But it’s a slow process when a platform has so many users.

    • Guest

      Slow is the word for death in this industry, when you’re slow you die fast.

  • Guest

    Facebook still has yet to monazite enough of their user base to make them worth their stock price. That will be their death. Well…that and the fact they are losing existing users daily to other forms of ‘social’ media. More people watch and share YouTube videos than use Facebook :) (*cough* G+ *cough*)

    • Guest

      ‘monetize’

  • Sam_Sonite

    “that’s the popular theory”

    One researcher writing about (not publishing in a peer reviewed journal) a small group of teens in a single town is certainly not enough evidence to condemn Facebook to the trashheap.

    http://pewinternet.org/Commentary/2013/August/Teens-Havent-Abandoned-Facebook-Yet.aspx

  • Shaun

    Maybe some good points but I’m not convinced by FB. I tried it for a couple of years and stopped enjoying it as soon as everyone started seeing it as “an opportunity” instead of a social network.

    I do wish folks would quit labeling people “neigh sayers” if they don’t want to use it, that’s our choice, not yours. If you enjoy it then fair enough but quit badgering everyone else about it.

    We’re not “technophobes” in any sense. FB is not cutting edge at all. It’s a trumped up AOL clone. It is dumbed down and frankly retro.