Trends Analysis: Changing Facebook Demographics and What It Means for DTC Brands

Facebook demographics are shifting; does the social media giants userbase still align with your target audience and their values?

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Trends Analysis: Changing Facebook Demographics and What It Means for DTC Brands

The need to advertise your brand on Facebook used to be virtually undeniable. What other platforms could give you direct access to your ideal consumer with granular targeting options? Facebook demographics are changing, however. With the rise of competing social media sites and discomfort at the way Facebook shares and monetizes user data, it seems like advertising on the platform might not be such an obvious choice.

In fact, it might be worth asking whether your target market is even on the platform at all. 

Facebook Is Losing Younger Users Fast

If you specifically target consumers under 30, there’s a good chance much of your target market has either said goodbye to Facebook or were never there in the first place.

Edison Research estimates that there were 15 million fewer Facebook users in 2019 than there were in 2017, with younger users deserting the platform most. In 2017 there were around 82 million users aged between 12 and 34, but that number had fallen to just 65 million users by 2019; a 17% drop. Conversely, the number of users aged between 35 and 54 fell by just two percent, while those using the platform aged 55 and over increased by four points in the same timeframe.

This echoes the findings of a 2018 forecast by eMarketer suggesting the site was losing young users even faster than anticipated. The report also calculated that 2018 would be the first time that the majority of teenage internet users in the U.S. would not access the site at least once per month. 

There are two major reasons why younger users are fleeing the site, writes Conor Cawley at Firstly, Facebook’s rigid insistence on having a single identity on the platform doesn’t let teenagers explore their personality at an age when finding out who you are is one of the most important things you do. 

Secondly, the arrival of parents on Facebook has made the platform less than cool. This has resulted in many young users signing out for good and others refusing to join the platform in the first place.

If Younger Consumers Aren’t on Facebook, Where Are They?

If young people aren’t using Facebook, it begs the question: Where are they spending their time? The answer, writes Edison Research Strategy and Marketing SVP Tom Webster, is that they are spending more time on platforms they were already using. They haven’t left social media nor have they all joined a new social network.

Specifically, they are spending more time on Youtube, Instagram and Snapchat. Specifically, 85% of U.S teens use YouTube, 72% use Instagram and 69% use Snapchat, according to Pew Research. Only 51% report using Facebook, with just 10% of teens saying they used it the most.

It’s important to note that popular social media platforms are constantly changing, too. Right now, young people are flocking to TikTok, in particular, writes Joanna Carter at Smart Insights. Launched in 2016, its popularity grew in 2019. In March of that year, the platform had “500 million monthly active users worldwide and registered more than 1.1 billion installs.” People aged between 16 and 24 make up almost half (41%) of users. 

Not Everyone Is Leaving Facebook Just Yet

Even when teenagers don’t use Facebook, they find it hard to escape the platform, writes Emily Dreyfuss on Wired. When the magazine spoke to dozens of teens across the country about the platform, most said they were apathetic. It’s their parents, many of whom have been on Facebook from its early days, who still post regularly.

That many parents have an active presence on Facebook is proof enough that not everyone is leaving the platform. They are not alone, either; older generations are also joining the social network. Pew Research shows that 37% of people born before 1945 were on Facebook in 2019 compared to just 21% in 2012. The number of Baby Boomers on Facebook is also increasing, with 60% on the platform in 2019 compared to 43% in 2012. 

The chance to connect with relatives and other friends is one of the main drivers for people still using Facebook, explains Deborah Lupton, a Professor at UNSW Sydney. Being able to reconnect with lost friends and maintain connections with far-off family members is very important to users, as is the ability to join other communities, like health groups, which can combat feelings of loneliness. 

Others, regardless of their age, keep Facebook because they feel they have to. When journalist Michael Grothaus asked friends why they stayed on Facebook, none gave a positive answer. Across the board it was seen as a necessary evil; a way to stay connected with an old acquaintance you don’t have a number for or access certain apps that require a Facebook login. Everyone agreed the site wasn’t what it used to be. 

Eventually, even these users may leave or, at the very least, not log in as much. In the UK, almost one-third (30.2%) of adults in 2019 have taken steps to reduce the amount of time they spend on Facebook either by deleting their account or removing the app, writes Exposure Ninja’s Stacey Overton.

Does That Mean Your Advertising Bucks Are Better Spent Elsewhere?

Let’s be clear, Facebook is still a fantastic advertising platform for a lot of eCommerce brands. Only last year, Common Thread Collective’s Taylor Holiday and his team were able to sell 80,000 pairs of socks and deliver a 4X ROI in just 45 days for pet-themed sock brand PupSocks. 

That said, Facebook is not the be-all and end-all platform it once was. 

Brands are starting to get fed up with how much it costs to advertise on Facebook, says Kerel Cooper, SVP of Global Marketing at marketing technology platform LiveIntent, who advises them to look elsewhere. “The benefits of Facebook advertising — reaching a logged-in audience with highly targeted and measurable campaigns — aren’t limited to just Facebook. In order to compete in an era with rising Facebook costs, marketers must diversify their ad spend and turn elsewhere to reach new and incremental audiences and inventory.”

Sharing your advertising budget between multiple social platforms is one solution. Another is to move away from social media advertising entirely. 

A report by Feedvisor found that Amazon delivers significantly better ROI than either Facebook or Google. In the company’s survey of 1,000 U.S. brands, over half (59%) reported the highest returns from Amazon. Only 22% said Google delivered the best returns on ad spend and just 17% believed paid social was the most profitable channel. Regardless of which platform delivered the highest returns, the vast majority of brands (83%) saw at least a 300% (or 4x) return from advertising on Amazon. 

One direct to consumer heavyweight is moving outside the walled gardens of third-party platforms altogether. Glossier is investing significant time and money into building its own social platform so that it no longer has to worry about Facebook and Instagram, et al. Just as the direct to consumer model stops resellers from coming between the brand and consumer, says Glossier COO Henry Davis, social media shouldn’t get in the way, either. “The dominant model that we associate with DTC is dominant because of social media. It allowed brands to cut the retailer out, while still reaching a huge amount of people very quickly. But the limitations of those platforms are becoming evident.”

Maybe it’s not time to ditch Facebook just yet. There’s nothing wrong, though, with stealing a call from Glossier’s playbook and taking action now to make sure that your brand continues to grow in the future, whatever happens with social media sites. 

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