Is Facebook Really Over?

Posted on November 11, 2013

According to some reports in the media, teens are deserting Facebook to engage with their friends elsewhere, such as in snapchat or whatsapp. Does this signal the beginning of the end for Facebook?

Are we standing on the edge of a great disruption in the world of social media, or are reports such as Business Insider’s a bit overblown? According to Business Insider, teenagers don’t what to be on Facebook because that is where their parents go to hang out. They want to be someplace different.

It’s a compelling argument, one that has actually been made for generations in many different contexts, but one that probably doesn’t apply here. Although Facebook would like to be a messaging platform for everyone, there are many competitors in this space. Messaging and especially chat are very synchronous and directly engaging activities.

What Facebook does best is an asynchronous communication where people effectively leave comments on their life that can be picked-up later, or read a leisure. The other side to Facebook’s timeline concept is that you are effectively publishing to an audience that may or may not read what you created. Contrast this with chat messaging where reading is expected and replies happen in most cases. Effectively chat is a conversion, Facebook is shouting into a crowd.

Now back to our teens and their parents and how they communicate. Teens are engaging in conversations across social media all the time. They, for the most part, desire to directly engage with their friends, making chat messaging applications highly appropriate to their communication needs. Hence snapchat, Whatsapp and their ilk are very popular amongst teens.

On the other hand, parents are pretty busy people that do a lot of discussing throughout the day and are more interested in using social media to keep up with the major events in their family and social circle. This is clearly a case of asynchronous communication and is best supported by Facebook rather than chat applications.

So, if we look at our initial hypothesis and ask ourselves whether Facebook will face ruin because teens are busy interacting elsewhere the answer to that is an emphatic no. Once the communications needs of teens changes, they’ll become heavier users of Facebook and lighter users of chat applications. Should Facebook be concerned that their chat is not used by more teens? Yes and no. Clearly, they’d like everyone to use their ecosystem, but they have a huge strength in asynchronous communication that they should play to.

Title image: http://www.flickr.com/photos/scobleizer/4171576818/