In the last couple months, more and more news outlets are reporting that teenagers are leaving Facebook – deciding instead, to use other platforms. In one recent article, Business Insider gives a detailed analysis on the reasons behind this behavior. Unfortunately, the article itself is more of a statement than a particular conclusion about the shift we are witnessing at the moment. The truth is very simple: every generation needs its own way of communication, and what’s happening to Facebook right now has already happened to email and phones in the past.
If someone asked you to go to a club for teenagers (never mind the fact that it would be creepy), your most probable reaction would be “no way!” And what about buying Justin Bieber’s new album?
New generations need their own way of expressing feelings and creativity. The very same thing that happens with music and literature happens with technology. To Elvis fans, Skrillex probably sounds like endless goat-rape.
When you are 13 or 14 years old, you are not really into privacy as most of Europeans expect people to be. The digital world is their getaway, and not another place for adults to monitor and criticize what they’re doing. They need a network of their own, and this may be one of the reasons why Snapchat has become such a huge hit.
Facebook is no longer a place where you can avoid adults. Everyone’s there, and even I freak out sometimes when my parents start getting curious about my pictures from last night. You can edit your privacy settings, but most people have no idea how to do that.
What’s next ?
Mobile is the next frontier – hell, it's already how almost half of the world already accesses the web. We’re digital natives, and in the same vein, kids today are growing up on mobile. They are used to apps, short character limits, and texting. So it’s not strange that WhatsApp has more than 200 million monthly users, and is probably the biggest service of this type in the world.
Facebook Home - A cry for help?
Offering a $99 smartphone might be appealing to teenagers. Cool and inexpensive phones optimized for the easiest messaging with your friends might sound like a good deal. The only problem is that it has no value for those who are not Facebook power users. I think Facebook will need to do better than this to survive.
Looking towards the future
Facebook is not the only one who wants to engage as many teenagers as possible. Missing this boat would jeopardize any consumer service in the long run, and the competition is not blind to that. Path’s latest update included messages and stickers, and might be a step in this direction. WhatsApp and Snapchat are obviously far ahead of the curve, and more apps like this are coming. Personally, I am a big fan of Pov.io, a twitter-like photo sharing app. Easy to use, and with the best engagement model I’ve seen in years, this platform could be the answer.
For dramatic purposes, I should probably end this article with a “Facebook is dead” announcement, but I don’t think Zuckerberg’s social network will die overnight. With a group of amazingly brilliant individuals, Facebook will definitely be around for a while. Solving this problem is just a matter of time, and the fact they are aware of it says a lot.
Lesson to be learned - If you want to stay on top, look to the past, but never take your eyes off the future. Companies that ignore this advice (Blockbuster, anyone?) don’t end up doing very well.