A faltering Facebook

Photo by alexsl/iStock.

By Chris Manley, CEO, Engenius

This is part one of a two-part series.

Facebook has been in the news quite a bit this year, from the Cambridge Analytica data scandal to the latest breach that compromised the data of about 50 million users to concerns about data privacy WITHOUT a breach. And that’s before you get into potential foreign interference in our electoral process using Facebook.

Chris Manley

Those are the headlines that get published in major news outlets. As a marketer, there are more important headlines related to Facebook: Are people still using it, and is it still relevant?

Two insightful nuggets of data emerged earlier this year. The first: It is not the most-used social media outlet in America. Studies by Pew Research and Edison Research revealed in 2018 that tens of millions more Americans use YouTube than Facebook. The second: An Edison Research/Triton Digital study uncovered that Facebook usage decreased among Americans for the first time ever, by about 5 percent between 2016 and 2018.

Why is Facebook struggling to engage users? Here are three likely culprits:

  • Negativity
    Gallup has actually been tracking world negativity through its Negative Experience Index for over a decade. Not all social media is suited for such sharing, but Facebook is. Users are spending less time on platforms that increase their worrying, anger, and stress.
  • Trust
    If secrets can’t be kept, we begin distrusting those that leak our secrets. In the wake of concerns over how Facebook is using our data intentionally (not from breaches), it has created distrust among many for using the social media platform.
  • Real Life
    There’s a growing movement called “Offline October,” started by two dozen or so teens from Heritage High School in Colorado, aiming to reduce how much time teens spend on devices. They were concerned about the growing number of teen suicides and potential links to social media use. Teens typically spend nine hours a day on their phones, check their phones 157 times a day, and see 208 Snapchats a day. They’re hoping that, by pledging to give up social media and devices for a month, teens will have more face-to-face conversations.

Unless something dramatic changes, it is likely that we’ll see active Facebook use continue to decline. However, as a marketer, it is important to note that 62 percent of Americans still actively use Facebook, making it a significant player in the race to reach more people with your brand message. Facebook cannot be ignored – but it is beginning to play a smaller role than it used to.


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