Last week Princeton and Facebook duked it out over the idea that Facebook’s user base would collapse in a couple years. This paper went viral and drew a lot of attention to the idea that Facebook is beginning its MySpace like decline. Before the paper, Ruby Karp’s Op-Ed on Mashable “I’m 13 and None of My Friends Use Facebook” gave us insight into the thoughts behind the youngest adopters decision to stay away from Facebook.

Her notable observations are:

  • Friends are now using Snapchat
  • Parental adoption of FB encroaches on teen’s social life
  • Pervasive advertising makes the site distasteful

Five months later the folks at iStrategyLabs used the demographic information exposed by the Facebook advertising platform to show a 25% decline in the 13-17 year old’s over 3 years.

Goodbye Teens

Teens are a coveted group as they tend to spend a lot of money on discretionary high-profit margin items. Take a look at this article by Cynthia Boris titled: “What are Teens Spending Most of Their Money On? Surprise, It’s Not Games“.

The teen demographic spends nearly half their money on:

  1. Personal Care
  2. Food
  3. Clothing

If you are the media buyer for Forever 21 or Axe Body Spray, you should consider taking some of that Facebook marketing budget and toss it towards Instagram or Snapchat. The data is clearly showing that those consumers are migrating to new social networks. But, does this mean that without teens Facebook is going to die?

Facebook’s Maturing Audience

As the teens and young adults move on to mobile pastures, Facebook provides a growing reach into an older, financially powerful demographic. iStrategyLab’s data shows the following increases:

Age Users Growth
25-34 44,000,000 32.6%
35-54 56,000,000 41.4%
55+ 28,000,000 80.4%

This is a tremendous opportunity for marketers. The Millenials and Gen X crowd continues to grow, but, their spending habits are vastly different. Take a look at the Bureau of Labor Statistics data:

These groups spend a lot of money on:

  • Housing and furnishing
  • Vehicles/Transportation
  • Entertainment (Fees and admissions)

Remember when Cadillac started using Led Zeppelin’s music in their commercials? They were going after people like my father who listened to them in his youth and can now afford to buy a nice car.

Advertisers on Facebook are going to have to make that same shift to speak to the site’s aging population. But instead of Led Zeppelin, they need to connect to the 30 something 80’s kids. A good example of adjusting to the next generation can be seen in this HP commercial featuring the Cure’s Pictures of You.:

Is Facebook in Trouble?

To predict the demise of Facebook is premature. The evolution of Social Media is fast and Facebook is still the reigning champ. Even though teens are leaving, adult use has increased dramatically and shows no signs of stopping.

The Marketing industry is going to have to adapt. Marketing teen oriented brands and products on Facebook will continue to produce diminishing returns. The growth opportunity for Facebook marketing is in this older demographic. Luxury items, higher end entertainment, and other high disposable income products will do quite well in the future. Overall, savvy marketers of the future will be well served to stop lamenting the demise of the teen but celebrate the rise of the middle aged.