Ever wonder how the term “viral” became associated with the internet? Two researchers at Cornell University have an idea: like a viral infection, Facebook began small, spread rapidly, and reached its peak — and now it’s dying out. If you believe their predictions, Facebook will lose 80% of its user base between 2015 and 2017.
Need more evidence? A January 2014 report by iStrategyLabs found that between 2011 and 2013, the coveted market of teenaged U.S. Facebook users declined by slightly over 25%. That translates into 3 million less American teens than just three years ago.
So where are all the “cool kids” going? They’re migrating en masse to hipper services like Instagram and Snapchat, to the tune of 150 million users worldwide on Instagram and 350 million photos each day on Snapchat.
Make no mistake about it; Facebook is still a viable way for marketers to get in front of millennials (widely accepted as those born in the early 1980s through early 2000s). As of 2013, it was home to 180 million Americans — and nearly 10 million of those are teens, ages 13 to 17. But if current patterns continue, and the research is right, Facebook’s lead will be coming to an end.
So — where does that leave us?
When Shift Happens: Strategy 101
With a shifting demographic, you’ve got to have a clearly defined target audience. What’s more, the right message to the right audience is imperative, since you can become irrelevant with a simple scroll. So before pushing out another status update, meme, or picture of the company dog, make sure you know the WHO of your product, your message, and your organization.
Know who you are. Until you’ve got a crystal-clear understanding of who you are, you can’t reach an accurate assessment of your market. Take a good look at your products or services. How do they benefit consumers? Do you offer a luxury, or are you satisfying a basic need? In a competitive market, what makes you stand apart from the others?
Know who your audience is. Once you’ve established what your business or product can do for people, the next step is to discover who will benefit from it the most. Understand that HOW you market on Facebook depends on WHO you’re going after.
What are people saying about you on Twitter and Facebook, and how do they speak when they say it? Who is most interested in what you offer? What drives your current customers’ loyalty? Use social monitoring to answer these questions, and then clarify and focus content based on the answers.
Bring yourself into alignment. Social media has transformed consumer expectations regarding the way we do business. Yet in many companies, social media exists as an entity separate from the rest of the business, strategically and culturally. In fact, just 26% of companies in an Altimeter survey report taking a holistic approach to social media.
It’s time to stop telling the story and start BEING it instead. With nearly 37% of millennials reporting they don’t trust big companies, this coordination and integration will be critical going into 2014.
Say It, Say it Fast, Say it Again
The overarching culture of all social media, no matter the users’ age, is one of “give it to me quick, fast and in a hurry.” Status updates simply can’t carry the weight anymore. Visuals are on the rise, and striking images with pithy captions are ruling the roost — note the success of Buzzfeed. With more stimuli for your consumers, in 2014 it is vital to keep headlines short and videos fast and interactive.
On the heels of Twitter’s promoted trends, Facebook has introduced video ads. While this offering is still in its pilot stages — and prohibitively expensive for all but the biggest corporations at this juncture — it’s well worth keeping in mind for the future.
An incredibly powerful medium across all demographics, video is the gold standard for online ad formats. If you’re planning to venture into the video arena, remember above all to keep it short, with high visual impact. If they make sense with or without sound, that’s even better.
Next, consider the efficacy of repetition. This means working in several different mediums to reinforce messaging and build recognition. With millennials dominating Facebook, repetition for brand awareness is a must. This segment has been noted for a decreased ability to recall brands, when compared to GenX. To target teens, follow Taco Bell, Karmaloop and Acura’s lead by supporting your Facebook efforts with corporate SnapChat and Instagram.
The bottom line: Facebook’s demographics are shifting, and you’ve got homework. To keep ahead of the shift, develop an integrated, research-based, multifaceted social campaign that reaches out in multiple venues. With Facebook user uncertainty ahead, you certainly don’t want to put all of your (hidden Easter) eggs in one basket.
About The Author: Kimberly Barnes is digital marketing strategist currently living in Charlotte, NC. She specializes in helping organizations connect holistically to their customers through social media, content marketing, and customer relationship management (CRM). When she’s not glued to her laptop, she enjoys volleyball, pretending to be a culinary contestant on Taste, and live music. If you’d like to stalk her, she can be found on Twitter and LinkedIn.