Things Change – Teens Decline, Mothers Rise on Facebook

Peter Roesler, President - Web Marketing Pros

By Peter Roesler

President, Web Marketing Pros

female-social-mediaThe reason it’s important to keep up with the latest research and news involving marketing techniques and strategies can be summed up in two words: “things change”. This is especially true of internet marketing and social media marketing, where the fast pace nature of the medium can lead to very rapid changes. Some recent studies have shown that Facebook usage among teens has declined, leaving some marketers to wonder about the overall the usefulness of Facebook for marketing. However, other research has shown that the most active group on social media (especially Facebook) is young mothers. This post will explain the research, tell marketers how to use the information to their advantage, and what some of the possible implications are for the future of social media marketing.

For years, social media was thought of as something just for young people, and only recently have social media sites begun to see widespread adoption. But just as everyone started to get in on the act, it appears that many teenagers are starting to bow out. The 26th Semi-Annual Piper Jaffray report showed that for the first time since they started tracking the numbers, Facebook lost its top spot as the most important social network among teens. This information collaborates an earlier study by Pew Research Center that showed teens complained about the privacy issues, personal drama, and corporate issues associated with Facebook

“I got mine [Facebook account] around sixth grade. And I was really obsessed with it for a while. Then towards eighth grade, I kind of just — once you get into Twitter, if you make a Twitter and an Instagram, then you’ll just kind of forget about Facebook, is what I did.”  wrote a 14-year-old female student interviewed for the Pew Research Center’s 2013 Teens, Social Media and Privacy report.

Part of the irony is that since Facebook owns Instagram, teens may be leaving once Facebook product for another Facebook product. For its part, Facebook acknowledges the website’s decline in teen usage.

“Youth usage among U.S. teens was stable overall from Q2 to Q3, but we did see a decrease in daily users partly among younger teens,” said Facebook Chief Financial Officer David Ebersman.

Even if 13-18 year olds are using Facebook less, the fact remains that social media networks continue to grow in size, so people are obviously using them. Just as research showed the decline of teen use, a new study has shown who is using social media the most, women with children under five years old.

The global information company Experian ran a report based on data from the Simmons National Consumer Study, which examined the online and offline habits of 25,000 U.S. adults. Additional data came from Hitwise, web traffic reports and other research studies. Besides showing that mother’s with young children were most active on social media, the study found that moms used social media less if the kids were older.

“Moms with young kids represent a highly active and digitally sophisticated segment of consumers who are eager to connect with brands and share their experiences through multiple platforms,” said Bill Tancer, Experian’s general manager of global research, as reported in the New York Daily News.

Though the overall conclusion is that mom’s with young children like to use social media, it’s important to note the Facebook was the predominant choice of young mothers. For brands seeking to connect with young women and spread information about their product, Facebook remains an integral part of any social media marketing campaign.

“We found in the analysis that Facebook is overwhelmingly the preferred social-media network for moms with young kids,” Suzanne Blackburn, a spokesperson for Experian Marketing Services, told Mashable.

In some respects, the decline of Facebook among teens is to be expected. There are few things that remain popular with equally popular with multiple generations of teenagers. Despite the popularity they once enjoyed at one point in time, modern Americans teens aren’t typically seen at malt shops, drive-in theatres, and roller rinks. Every generation of teens seeks to establish themselves as being different from the previous generation, and using the same social network as their parents, grandparents, and teachers hardly fits the bill. The fact that Facebook has remained as popular as it has with teens (especially with the large number of newer competitors out there) is a testament to the usefulness of the network. Even if it’s not as popular and trendy as it once was, teens will stay connected to Facebook because their family, friends, favorite restaurants, etc. still use the network.

This new research may actually be good news for business owners and marketers who are seeking to build lifelong relationships with their customers. The fact that teen usage of Facebook declined while usage among young mothers increased suggests that the generation of teens who first started using Facebook, have continued to use it as they grew older and their lives changed. Looking forward, marketers can expect that these users will continue to use Facebook as they reach middle age and beyond. Rather than decrease the usefulness of Facebook, the news shows the long-term value of the platform. Businesses that manage to reach and connect with their customers on Facebook can continue to use that marketing channel for the rest of their lives (or so long as Facebook is around).

While it’s important to pay attention to the newest research, it’s equally important to think about the information clearly before acting on it. Naysayers of any marketing technique are always quick to point to any slightly negative news as a sign of the death of the channel. It’s been said about Facebook plenty of times (like in 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, and you get the the picture). Here are a few things to consider. Even if Facebook is declining with teens, so long as the platform is making gains elsewhere, most marketers shouldn’t worry about their Facebook efforts. With more than a billion users, Facebook could decline with every demographic for a very, very long time before the platform ceased to useful for marketing and advertising. So while businesses that market specifically to teens may want to consider additional means to reach their audiences, the rest of the marketing community can just use their current social media plans, confident that each fan they gain is the chance for a lifelong customer.

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