Evidence of the demise of Facebook among teens was based on research from a UK academic – I pointed out here that the research actually suggests a change of use, rather an absolute decline. But even if its true what does it matter?
To find out more about what is going on with Facebook I spoke with Tom Smith, founder and CEO of GlobalWebIndex, a company that keeps the largest body of third party data on social media usage, globally.
The story is more interesting than the simple notion of decline or desertion. Yes, teens make less use of Facebook than they used to. Parmy Olsen reported here on Forbes on where teens are headed to apart from Facebook – places like WhatsApp and Instagram. They are making more use of simple mobile messaging apps but they are still the single biggest user group on Facebook, only just. According to Tom:
“My belief is Facebook is no longer seen as on trend and it is fashionable for teens to say they no longer use it. However our data and recorded behavior show that it is still a key part of their social media experience…. the reality is there is a decline, but it is still no.1 [among teens in 30 out of 32 countries] and account ownership still remains at near full penetration.”
More interesting still, however, all other age groups are catching up. And why that’s interesting is because it illustrates that, around the world, people continue to increase their engagement with, and through, social media. Whether in a mobile first demographic or among older people, or in mobile first parts of the world, the story of growth i social media is still the strongest narrative, according to Smith.
As an aside, the use of social networking in business – the so-called social business phenomenon, has very weak penetration compared to social networks outside work. Barely 1.2% of GlobalWebIndexes’ respondents acknowledge making use of social business tool Yammer, for example. But back to Facebook. Smith’s company GlobaWebIndex provided the following data.
From Q2 2012 to Q3 2013 the percentage of active users among 16 – 19 year olds fell from 62% to 52% (these are active users in the sense of having contributed content), and among 20 – 24 year olds fell from 63% to 52%.
Now the interesting part. The percentage of active users among the 35 – 44 year old age group rose from 47% to 53%, among 45 – 54 year olds from 43% to 49%, and among 55 – 64 year olds from 39% – 45%.
The non-teen, non early twenties demographic cohorts are making much more use of Facebook. The story is a strong one for Facebook, which has now become intimately entwined in the lives of people across all age groups, and increasingly among those who are more likely to have disposable income. The mature market is on trend to become the most active users of Facebook during 2014.
It may be that Facebook wants to maintain its reputation as the cool place for young people to connect but that is clearly past. Mobile usage has encouraged people to migrate to other sites. But overall Facebook is cementing its position as the default setting in online relationships.