For many of us, it’s the beginning of the end of our time on the social media phenomenon, Facebook. I’m not talking of deleting our accounts of course, it’s unlikely we would resort to that, although the thought does regularly cross my mind. I’m talking of realising that scrolling through Facebook is no longer an acceptable pastime. We’re bored of adverts, we rarely upload photos and we can’t even remember the last time we wrote ‘Happy Birthday’ on a loose acquaintance’s wall. Or wrote anything on anyone’s wall for that matter.
It seems the younger generation are starting to become ‘passive’ users. We use Facebook to sign into other apps, to remove ‘friends’ who aren’t actually friends or occasionally share an interesting article. But according to reports, we do little else. Active engagement is in decline.
Making the platform personal
In April this year a 21% decline in ‘original sharing’ was reported. People are posting less and although user engagement and time spent on the platform continues to rise, it is the personal content and connections with friends that made the platform so addictive for millennials in the first place.
According to a report published by Bloomberg, Mark Zuckerberg discussed in a recent meeting ways to encourage more personal sharing, in order to meet and counteract this drop.
The feature ‘On This Day’ was launched last year displaying our Facebook posts from the same day each year before As someone who spent their teenage years posting their entire life on Facebook, this feature is generally the only thing I look at if I log onto Facebook in the morning. I am usually left red-faced, spending the majority of my morning deleting status’ from 2008 in which I moan about either my parents or the amount of homework I have to do, praying I don’t accidentally ‘like’ anything and have it jump to the top of all my friends’ News Feeds. Cringe.
The re-engagement attempts do not stop there. Trying to encourage personal posts about relationships, Facebook now reminds us of special occasions like Mother’s Day. It’s also easier than ever to post pictures, as your camera roll displays photos taken that day at the top of our News Feeds. Of course this has instilled panic in millions of people as they assume Facebook has actually posted their private photos. Because which of your Facebook friends actually wants to see a picture of what you had for breakfast? Instagram followers however, that’s another matter.
More new features – Facebook now tells you the weather in your specific town – not even your general area but actual town. It also wishes you personally a good morning when you log in before breakfast.
Does Facebook know too much?
Are these constant updates simply making Facebook look a bit…desperate? Facebook is a place for friends, it’s not supposed to actually be my friend. I’d rather it didn’t say, ‘Good morning Alex!’ with a weather update in my hometown as soon as I wake up because, quite frankly, it’s a bit creepy. It’s possible this is another reason why people are abandoning the platform, or at least limiting their posting. We are finally realising how much of our life exists on the internet, and subsequently, how much Facebook actually knows about us.
Because Facebook knows. It knows a lot. It knows what we did at the weekend, where we spent our summer holiday, what websites we have looked at recently, which apps we have downloaded, what we wore to a house party in 2011 and how we felt about our biology homework in 2007.
These days, we are more clued up over internet dangers. We know the damage a drunken photo from your night out in Sheffield can do in a job interview, and maybe we’re just no longer comfortable sharing our personal views and family photos with 2000 ‘friends’, of whom we only personally know 90.
Originally it was just the millennials on Facebook. The social media savvies, uploading their last few photos of their weekend ignorant to the dangers of the web whilst their unsuspecting parents tell them to get off the computer so they can use the phone. Facebook was the go-to place to hang out after school. With Facebook, you could spend time with your friends from the comfort of your living room, and didn’t have to spend 12p on a text every time you wanted to get in touch.
Nowadays, it’s platforms like Pinterest (coincidentally Facebook-owned), Instagram and Snapchat that inspire excitement in the younger generation. They are newer, trendier, and the best part? Our posts won’t be hung out to dry for a decade’s accumulation of friends to see.
For millennials, Facebook may soon become old fashioned and outdated. As the older generations realise the fun to be had on the platform, it’ll soon be full of distant relatives you haven’t seen since you were eight, writing comments the length of an email about how they ‘must get over to visit the family soon’ on a photo of you and your friends. Embarrassing.
Let’s be honest, does anyone actually want their nan to see their weekend antics? Research has shown that a third of younger internet users admitted to actually deleting social media accounts because their parents had signed up. Evidently making your account private and rejecting their friend request is just too cruel.
The parents are joining us, and the grandparents, the distant relatives, even the pets. There’s nothing more disconcerting than seeing a friend request from your dog.
The oldies have joined the party and they are discovering the joys of reconnecting with old friends, whilst simultaneously keeping an eye on their children’s online, and offline, behaviour. Think your teenager has been misbehaving? Take a look at their Facebook page, there’s no doubt it’ll be on there.
Facebook for businesses
How about the role of Facebook for your company? Of course it’s important your business has a Facebook page to build a loyal following, but there are alternative options opening up for companies to market their products. Many users may have become immune to the sponsored posts and adverts littering our Facebook newsfeeds, automatically scrolling past them without actually reading, and it is only spending large amounts of money running ad campaigns that marketers are actually able to see results.
Yet platforms like Instagram and Snapchat have opened a whole new window of opportunities for companies, with organisations recently catching on to their potential. The platforms are growing more and more, and due to the lack of links, the two retain a luxuriously clean, anti-spam feel, a feeling Facebook no longer has with it’s cluttered newsfeed and deviation from the personal to the public.
Instagram is generating good engagement and the average Instagram user is younger than the average Facebook user, a factor which generally drives higher ad prices. Business Insider reported soon after the integration of ads into Instagram that the average price per ad impression on Instagram was 90% higher than on Facebook. Users are actually clicking on the ads, perhaps because they take up a lot more space on our screen alongside the fact we aren’t actually used to seeing ads on Instagram, unlike the constant bombardment that occurs on Facebook.
An average conversion on Instagram is likely worth more in future sales than on Facebook. Although partly due to the novelty of Instagram ads, meaning the success is likely unsustainable, it seems unlikely that Facebook conversion rates are going to catch up even when Instagram’s success dies down.
Despite these factors, it’s doubtful Facebook is going to die out just yet and, even if it does they still have Instagram to fall back on. Facebook is deeply engrained in our lives and the On This Day feature reminds any doubters of this on a daily basis. We use our accounts to sign into other apps, and have seemingly accepted that Facebook privacy is a thing of the past, the platform is now more public and wide-reaching than ever.
Facebook still remains the primary source of communication, and the place that news stories, opinions and videos of cats spread within seconds. If we actually went as far as to delete our accounts, do we really know what would be deleted? I’m sure I’m not the only one who finds Facebook’s privacy policies rather vague. Perhaps it’s best to continue to visit it each morning, monitoring what goes online with our name attached to it whilst simultaneously enjoying the freedom Facebook does offer, reading long, pretentious debates about politics between your friends. Evidently, it’s better to be safe than sorry, and no one wants to be haunted by that photo for the rest of our professional lives.
If you enjoyed this post, check out our app development team’s thoughts on Instagram’s new stories feature – it’s a good one.