This is How Facebook is Going to Die
Yesterday, Facebook's market value topped $100 billion. Zuck must be smitten his baby is now worth close to last year's original IPO valuation. Market confidence, which Monday included a stock price increase of 1.9% to $41.34 with a daily high of $41.94 (the highest since the IPO), is said to be bolstered by belief Facebook just might deliver on its mobile advertising promise. The upswing is certainly positive news for the social network which hit a stock price low of $17.73 in September.
But can Zuckerberg, whose baby now realizes 41% of its quarterly advertising revenue from smartphone and tablet-centric promotions, really make a go of it when recent Pew research find teens have a "waning enthusiasm for Facebook"? The report states dislike for the incessant over-sharing that is part and parcel of the service. But, more importantly, teens are miffed all their parents and their parents friends are now on Facebook.
What could be more horrific to a teen than mom and dad commenting on a recent post with well-intentioned love, affection and pride that in teen-speak can only translate to extreme "did you see what Sally's mom posted?" embarrassment? No matter how well-intentioned, parents embarrass their kids. It's just a fact of life. And while many parents insist upon friending their children, there's not one out there under the age of, say, 20, who actually wants that online friendship.
So while mobile ad revenue may be boosting Facebook's health, it's no secret kids wants their own, parent-free playground. For example, Twitter has seen a 16% increase in teen usage from 2011 to 2012. Not that Twitter is parent-free but it's easier to avoid them.
Summarizing its recent BI Intelligence report on teen's mobile-first usage, the publication wrote, " we may be witnessing is the unraveling of a unitary, centralized social media landscape, dominated by Facebook, into a set of multipolar nodes. Facebook warded off the Instagram threat by buying the company, but it won't always be possible for the company to neutralize threats with acquisitions."
It's no secret services like Snapchat and the recently Yahoo!-acquired Tumblr have been heavily fueled by teen usage. In fact, a recent Survata survey found more 13-18-year-old teens (61%) use Tumblr than Facebook (55%).
Perhaps, lending the best insight into this apparent shift by teens away from Facebook, 13-year-old Ruby Karp wrote in a Mashable article, I'm 13 and None of My Friends Use Facebook, "Part of the reason Facebook is losing my generation's attention is the fact that there are other networks now. When I was 10, I wasn't old enough to have a Facebook. But a magical thing called Instagram had just come out ... and our parents had no idea there was an age limit. Rapidly, all my friends got Instagrams. Teens are followers. That's just what we are. If all my friends are getting this cool new thing called Snapchat, I want it, too! We want what's trending, and if Facebook isn't 'trending,' teens won't care."
Commenting further on the embarrassment factor of teens and their parents using the same social network, Karp writes, "Let's say I get invited to a party, and there's underage drinking. I'm not drinking, but someone pulls out a camera. Even if I'm not carrying a red Solo cup, I could be photographed behind a girl doing shots. Later that week, the dumb-dumb decides to post photos from that 'amazing' party. If my mom saw I was at a party with drinking, even if I wasn't participating, I'd be dead. This isn't Facebook's fault, but it happens there."
She's right. While every parent certainly wants to know what their teens are doing when they are out and about, Facebook fosters an almost creepy form of supervision. It's like having your parents supervise your Junior High prom. While parents want to be able to supervise their children at all times, children will attempt to avoid it like the plague.
We're certainly not here to debate the merits of proper parentage but it's clear children will do whatever it takes -- and this has become increasingly easier in an age of endless digital choice -- to avoid their parents whenever that can.
What does this mean for Zuck who, let's be honest, was just a kid, himself, a few years ago? It means his baby is going to become a rest home for the over 40 crowd.
Of course, it should be said there's nothing wrong with the over 40 crowd, especially when it comes to their disposable income one assumes every smart marketer desires. But, alas, most marketers are just dumb. They love a shiny new object and in lemming-like fashion they're going to chase that flash because, let's be honest again, that 30-year-old marketing director who recently edged out that supremely more qualified but far too grey and uncool 50-year-old, would much rather create a hip, cool, edgy marketing program fronted by a hip, cool, edgy and very youthful celebrity that appeals to teens than some washed-up celebrity has-been that, if the marketer did their homework, would realize actually does have a rock-solid connection with the over 40 crowd who, as we all know, has money to spend.
While it's teens who are shifting away from Facebook, it's the marketers who will pull the money that fuels the network.
And that's why Facebook will fail. It won't happen overnight. It may not happen in the next decade. But it will happen. Which, of course, is sad and frustrating. Because we'll all have to start the stupid cycle over again. Teens find cool, new toy. Parents discover it a few years later. Teens leave. Cool, new toy goes out to pasture.