Is Facebook’s Core Audience Deserting It?

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With new features like FBX ad exchange and a shift from limited social advertising formats to more traditional forms of online advertising, Facebook is winning back advertisers like General Motors. But when those advertisers come back to Facebook, they’ll find significantly fewer of the social website’s core audience waiting for them, according to an April 11 MediaPost report [link unavailable].

“Unlike the Boomers, who appreciate the convenience of Facebook’s integration features, teenagers have increasingly lost interest in the content that is being published on the News Feed,” Alex Realmuto writes.

The intimacy that Facebook once offered has been commoditized in a way in which people no longer really care about the majority of the updates from their “friends.” Now, these savvy teenagers are becoming more sensitive to the fact that the content they post is being shared with the rest of the world. This, coupled with the freedom and excitement people originally, but seemingly no longer, felt when sharing their personal stories on the Internet, has driven people away.

Moving on? Or just growing up?

The younger core audience’s move away from Facebook may have as much to do with the onset of adult maturity as with adolescent fickleness.

On one hand, the formerly addicting novelty of documenting every aspect of one’s life, no matter how trivial or banal, has become so very…2012.

Like Millennials, they’re an audience that craves options and control as well as novelty.

Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest and Tumblr – each with its own proprietary features – offer options.

Instagram and Twitter, with more manageable privacy settings that don’t change as often, offer control.

They also have very grown-up concerns about privacy and the digital paper trails their posts create for all the world to see. “Teens today have more at stake than the teenagers of a decade ago,” Realmuto explains. “Profiles can easily be searched by a potential college recruiter or, years down the line, an employer.”

No wonder they’re switching from Facebook, whose Graph Search displays hidden photographs not only to Facebook friends but to the general public as well, to apps like Snapchat, where photos self-destruct after a few seconds of viewing.

Opportunity for advertisers

Some new social apps don’t just bring products to the audience. They also bring the audience to the product.

One example the MediaPost report singles out is

Free People, [which] for example, turns its customers into models by asking them to post images of themselves in the company’s clothing with specific hashtags relating to the item they are wearing. Some of those images are even posted on the Free People website. This way, potential buyers can see how a pair of jeans looks in real life while users have complete control of what is posted.

All is not lost yet

Though teenagers may be deserting the Facebook ship, the ship itself isn’t sinking. This demographic is historically the most changeable in its brand preferences and consumer behavior, so why should social networking sites be immune?

Yes, their changing preferences “might be a red flag for Facebook,” but the operative word here is “might.”

With a user base totaling more than one billion – a population that would comprise a nation smaller than only China and India – there’s still plenty of audience left to advertise to.

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