Facebook’s Earnings Report this week revealed that the platform continues to grow at a staggering rate. The number of monthly users reached 1.55 billion, with over 1 billion visiting daily. Revenues took an 11.3% jump to $4.5 billion, with the company continuing to finesse its advertising offerings.
Mark Zuckerberg should be smiling from ear to ear, right? Whilst obviously happy with these results, there is a nagging concern that Facebook is still grappling with. The platform is not attracting the younger generation, who are turning their backs to the platform in favour of alternatives like Twitter and Instagram (albeit the latter is also owned by Facebook).
An important growth segment for the platform has been the over 65s, who are now taking to social media quickly, research by the Pew Center last month discovered. Of those surveyed, 35% said they were on social media, compared to 10% in 2010 and just 2% in 2005. It seems that, as seen in many technology markets, the ‘early adopters’ phase of the over 65s have now been cleared, and the masses of this generation are now taking to social media. It is believed that the reasons are to connect with old friends, support causes and keep in contact with relatives – all of which are best achieved on Facebook.
Evidence from Jetscram backs up this point. The largest percentage of user base for Facebook is in the 35-54 age class (31%), with 11% of its users also being over 55s, and only 5.4% are aged between 13 and 17. Compare this to Twitter, where only 11% are 35-54, and Pinterest, where the largest proportion is the youngest generation measured.
Whilst there is no issue for Facebook in attracting these extra users on the surface, it is believed that this is having a cannibalism effect on younger generations joining the platform. As reported in The Telegraph, many younger people are leaving Facebook to avoid being monitored by their parents, and other relatives. The anonymity to be independent remains crucial, and this is seriously hampered in the online world by parents having access. Secondly, the platform simply isn’t seen as cool or on trend when it is older people flocking to use it. Particularly in the era of technology, this is a huge turn off for potential new users. The fear is that this could spread into those users in their 20s.
The only factor stopping this causing a mass exodus is the ‘lock-in’ that Facebook has on its users. By being the main storing capacity for photos for many individuals, and the organisation of events being driven by Facebook still, the ‘costs’ to the user of leaving the platform and leaving this all behind are large. This means, unless there are alternatives or a severe privacy issue, it is likely Facebook will remain an important aspect in our lives. Meanwhile, Facebook’s ownership of Whatsapp and Instagram hope to combat some of these issues.
Mark Zuckerberg has always held the company’s mission to connect everyone. But can they connect everyone? People have different needs at either end of the age spectrum, and creating a platform flexible enough to cater for everyone will be a significant challenge. Facebook is designed as a platform for everyone, but it is in danger of becoming a platform for those older than 30.