James Delves
James Delves 12 November 2013
Categories Mobile, Social Media

Why teenagers have given Facebook a bloody nose and what does it mean for marketeers

Facebook is currently the most popular social media channel in the world but is it in trouble - from teenagers and apps?

Facebook is currently the most popular social media channel in the world, followed by Twitter and LinkedIn. With a truly stunning estimated 800,000,000 unique monthly visitors it dwarfs the other social media channels. Consumers love it. Marketeers lover it. Brands, especially ones with a B2C focus really love it. This drives yearly increasing advertising revenues making the brand even richer. Coca-Cola alone has attracted more than 63 million fans to its Facebook page. But is there trouble on the horizon?


Twitter recently floated on the stock market in order to secure more revenues, which in turn will allow it to expand and increase its global customer base. Star Trek’s Sir Patrick Stewart no less, opened the first day’s trading and to pardon the pun – made it so. By the end of the day Twitter was valued at $31 billion.


But it’s not the financial clout of Twitter or even the growth of sites liked LinkedIn that is set to potentially topple Facebook from its perch – it’s teenagers. According to several industry reports and news articles, the world’s top social media channel is at risk as teenagers turn their back on it in favour of social media apps such as WhatsApp, WeChat and KakaoTalk.


When confronted with this fact - Facebook execs stated that they were seeing a decrease in daily users, specifically amongst teens. So the threat is true then.


Since teenagers are often far quicker than the majority of us to seize on the next best thing, maybe they know something we don’t. Should we be pulling our Facebook ads and taking down our client pages – are the likes of WhatsApp the next big thing?


Personally, I use both services but I must admit to getting bored with the poorly targeted ads on Facebook and annoying viral games that are thrust in my direction. It seems I am not the only one. According to Mobile Marketing Magazine WhatsApp is now on half the country’s iPhones and has more than 350 million monthly users worldwide. That makes it … even more popular than Twitter.


So what attracts users away from the likes of Facebook’s online community approach? Social media apps like WhatsApp offer users a closer more engaging service than Facebook. Think for a second, wouldn’t you prefer to chat privately with your friends rather than posting messages on Facebook walls where anyone can read them? The other big thing is the immediacy of the communication. Groups can be set up and conversations and debates had in minutes. It is difficult to ignore your phone going off and not adding your own view to a conversation with people you know via WhatsApp. When you compare it to logging into your Facebook account at lunchtime or when your boss isn’t watching – it all seems, well a bit yesterday doesn’t it?  Obviously Facebook has a messenger service but it’s not mobile and its popularity is certainly waning in many demographics.


So who are the hot contenders for Facebook’s crown? Well it’s clearly too early to say but here’s a list of the key messenger apps that could be an option when planning marketing budgets in the near future:

  • WhatsApp
  • Snapchat
  • GroupMe
  • Line
  • WeChat
  • MessageMe
  • KakaoTalk
  • KiK
  • Tango


Is it the end for Facebook? Probably not? It could well be a fad but if the trend continues we may see the other groups such as millennials and older demographic groups following suit. General Motors recently announced it was considering stopping advertising on Facebook after deciding that its paid ads had ‘little impact on consumers’ car purchases’. In 2012 General Motors spent $10 million advertising on Facebook – if other brands follow suite it could seriously damage Facebook’s revenue streams.


There are also rumours that Google has WhatsApp in its sights and could make a move in the coming months, which would really push the messenger app into direct competition with current big social brands. It’s not just domestic brands Facebook needs to be aware of.

Some of the Asian messenger apps such as Line are very well funded and could aggressively go after Facebook’s market share in the near future. Line recently reported to have surpassed the 270 million registered user mark - in just two years.


One thing is for sure, Facebook’s certainly not out for the count but it may have some difficult rounds ahead of it if it is to retain its title as the number one contender for many peoples’ online marketing spend. 


I would be interested to hear people’s views on the rise of messenger apps and if they believe they are a viable alternative to Facebook.

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