The rise and fall of Facebook.
When Facebook came along back in 2004, it was a total game changer — and the powerhouse platform has continued to dominate the social media landscape ever since. Facebook, which turns 18 this year, has become so deeply woven into the fabric of our lives that many of us don’t necessarily question whether it’s still relevant.
And yet, earlier this month Facebook stocks plummeted by an astronomical $232 billion in one day. For an organisation that has set a lot of records, this was a new one: the biggest single-day drop in company stocks that the US had ever seen.
This followed a string of bad press for Meta (the new name for the company that operates Facebook), over privacy concerns and suggestions the company has done nothing to stop COVID misinformation on Facebook, or protect young users from harmful material on Instagram (which it also owns). In the context of a world where consumers are demanding more transparency and accountability from businesses, it makes sense that Facebook would be falling out of favour — especially with younger people.
So, does this spell the end of Facebook? Should we still invest in Facebook advertising, or abandon ship completely and swim over to TikTok?
Why did Facebook stocks plumet?
The main thing that precipitated the drop was Meta’s announcement that, for the first time ever, the number of people using Facebook has decreased. There were 1 million fewer Facebook users in the most recent quarter than in the one previous.
Interestingly, Meta attributed the situation to “headwinds from both increased competition for people’s time and a shift of engagement.”* In other words, the social media market is saturated, and people are using social media differently to how they used to.
Meta also pointed out that their investment in the metaverse contributed to their net loss. The company poured $10 billion into ventures in the metaverse (more on that in a moment), and analysts estimate that Meta will spend another $60 billion on the metaverse in coming years.*
Bank of America analysts predict that Facebook will bounce back in the second half of 2022*, but there are plenty of experts suggesting this might be the beginning of the end for the platform.
But wait: what on earth is the metaverse?
“The metaverse” is an online alternative universe that’s been predicted (or at least imagined) for decades. The word was first mentioned by writer Neal Stephenson in his 1992 novel Snow Crash. Basically, the projection is that we’re moving closer to a world where we can meet our friends for coffee, go shopping (and spend real money) or host a business meeting, using virtual or augmented reality, from the comfort of our homes. Mark Zuckerberg has referred to the metaverse as “the next chapter for the internet”*, and Meta’s solid investment in this new reality (and name change to boot) indicates how deeply they believe in its viability. To start with, their high-tech virtual reality headset looks set to be released at the end of this year.
Mark Zuckerberg has referred to the metaverse as “the next chapter for the internet”.*
So should we stop using Facebook in marketing?
2.9 billion people around the world use Facebook every day – more than any other social media platform.
In 2020, 90 per cent of millennial Australians were still using Facebook.*
Not so fast. Facebook’s user base might be a little smaller than it once was, but it’s still wildly popular. Almost three billion people around the world use Facebook every day, which is more users than any other social media platform.
And despite those memes going around that refer to Facebook as simply a birthday-reminding app, many still say it’s one of their favourite social media platforms. Around the world, people rank Meta-owned WhatsApp as their favourite platform, followed very closely by Facebook. Males aged 25-34 name Facebook as their favourite app, while their female counterparts identify Instagram as their number one and Facebook as their number two. Among 16- to 24-year-olds, Instagram takes the cake.* Yet as recently as 2020, 90 per cent of millennial Australians were still using Facebook.*
From a marketing perspective, all of this gives us reason to keep harnessing the advertising potential of Facebook. While organic reach for Facebook posts is quite low these days (gone are the days when you’d see thousands of “likes” on one organic post), Facebook still offers comparatively low-cost advertising. It also allows you to target specific audiences particularly well. Because of its huge customer database, Facebook ads have the capacity to reach 35.7 per cent of people over 13 years of age.*
Depending on which demographic you’re trying to reach, Facebook may still play a vital role in your marketing efforts.
Should I use a blended social media approach?
While Facebook is still (mostly) on top, this doesn’t mean it will be king forever (something that Mark Zuckerberg himself seems all too aware of — hence his foray into the metaverse). Internal researchers at Meta predict that Facebook’s popularity among teens will continue to dwindle by as much as 45 per cent in 2023.
TikTok experienced the biggest growth in users between 2019 and 2020 when compared with all other social media channels,* and it was the most downloaded app in 2021.* It should be noted that TikTok is still most popular with users under 30.*
Due to the continuing popularity of Facebook and rising popularity of other social platforms, it makes sense to hedge your bets among various channels. This doesn’t mean a scattergun approach, but rather a considered strategy that blends different platforms.
It also means looking at how people are using social media and adapting your strategy to take this into account. Over half of worldwide internet users aged between 16 and 24, for example, conduct most of their brand research through social media (the rest use search engines).* It would make a lot of strategic sense, therefore, to have shopping functions available on your social media accounts and to ensure they’re looking and sounding as on-brand as possible.
Research (and the growth of platforms like TikTok) shows that short-form video content is now the most effective form of content on social media, followed by live-streaming, so ensuring video is part of your social media approach would also be wise.*
What about emerging social media platforms?
There are a few social media platforms currently on the rise.
Twitch, which has been around for nearly a decade, centres on live-stream gaming but has expanded to include videos on things like cooking as well as live-streamed events. It has 30 million users a day, and 70 percent of them are aged between 16 and 34.* Similar to other platforms, brands can launch ad campaigns to run through Twitch. There is also the more-recently launched Caffeine, which was started by Apple designers in 2018 and focuses on live video broadcasts.
Clubhouse, which is currently a “private” social media platform (in that it’s invitation-only), is interesting in that it’s primarily audio rather than visual. It involves experts who speak to audiences on specific topics. Once it does become more widely used, Clubhouse could offer brands an opportunity to conduct focus groups or exercise thought leadership by hosting conversations with various audiences. Clubhouse also points to the audio-only trend we’re seeing make its way across social platforms — including Twitter, which launched Twitter Spaces as an audio-only version of Twitter in 2020.
We’ve also seen the recent establishment of a more exclusive style platform in Sunroom, which is made for women and non-binary people. Sunroom is designed to assist women and non-binary creators make money by showcasing their business or skills in a safe space with likeminded others. It will be interesting to see whether niche apps like this take off as alternatives — or replacements — to the sometimes-problematic culture of larger platforms like Facebook and Instagram.
Instagram Reels, which launched in 2020 in response to the success of TikTok, has certainly cemented its place in the social media landscape. Reels invites Instagram users to make short, sharp and fun videos using in-built music and effects. If you want to play around with creating short-form videos that appeal to a younger audience, Reels is a great place to experiment.
The final word
Just like any marketing strategy, crafting an effective social media strategy all comes back to doing your research and knowing your target audience. It also involves playing around with different platforms and their various features to see what works for your business. It’s a wild (virtual) world out there, but it can be both fun and immensely effective in generating brand awareness and advertising reach.
To learn more about how to your target audience and how you can reach them, get in touch with PIER.