Fine, referring to it as desertion is a slight exaggeration. After all, teens still own Facebook accounts, visit for quick, voyeuristic peeks into their timelines, and will even post the occasional, highly sanitized pic. Don’t be fooled, though– that’s not where you’ll find them really interacting or spending most of their time…
From 2011 to 2014, there was a 25.3% drop in Facebook users from the ages of 13 to 17 and a 7.5% drop from the ages of 18 to 24. Meanwhile, WhatsApp’s user base has grown to 900 million users– trumping those of both Twitter and Instagram. 49% of social media users between the ages of 18 and 29 are on messenger apps like Facebook’s own Messenger, WhatsApp, and KIK, with 41% using auto-delete messengers like Snapchat (used by 18% of all social media users in the US). Compare those numbers to a paltry 11% of users 30-49 and just 4% of users 50+ on those same apps, and it’s clear why parents are all but ignored by their teens on Facebook.
It Just Wasn’t Meant To Be…
The reasons behind Gen Z’s departure from certain big platforms are pretty much in line with age-old teenage attitudes towards social norms.. Facebook, and the likes of it, are already “played out.” The very factors behind expansion– the inclusion of “everyone and their Momma” (literally), the advertising, the mainstream-iness, the whole publicly-traded aspect– all encompass the very essence of what a rebellious teen doesn’t want. Also, Gen Z was thrown head-first into the digital age. Facebook for them, is what the very first Nintendo console was, for millennials growing up in the 90s: outdated, aging, and just a warm up for the next platform. Add an awkward comment from Nana on your default pic to top it off and Voila! You’ve got yourself instant teenage repellent.
It’s not just adolescent rebellion at play here– the fact that messaging apps are free and can be used over Wifi so that SMS messaging charges aren’t incurred, appeals to a younger demographic with limited access to a full-fledged data plan or the means by which to pay for one. Another major reason for their predilection for messaging apps over big-platform social media is the fact that online content lives forever. Having experienced social media since they were old enough to swipe a tablet screen, they’re aware that there are future implications for their college and professional careers. The ephemerality of an app like Snapchat and the narrowcast abilities of WhatsApp and Kik give them the privacy they seek.
…So It’s Time You Moved On
Hitting the panic button, advertisers? Relax. Adjust accordingly. If you’re targeting Gen Z and that teen demographic, then you’ve likely stumbled onto the fact that running a full-blown campaign on Facebook isn’t the best decision. After all, their awesomely-accurate targeting is based on interests, shares, and like-counts– and teens aren’t exactly mobbing Facebook to make these things known. So what can you do?
Using Snapchat for a campaign might be the first thing that comes to mind, but be wary: getting past Gen Z’s bullshit detector is no easy feat, if your brand doesn’t already have an established presence in their busy social lives. If your budget allows it, consider using the reach of an existing social influencer/celeb who’s already permeated your target audience’s network. Using short links for an activation campaign via messenger apps would also ensure that you’re able to track results, if you were to choose that route. Another alternative is to merge commerce right into the apps themselves. Snapchat has invested money in social commerce platform Spring and made it possible for mobile payments through the app with Snapcash. Facebook Messenger now includes the payments option as well, though limited to p2p interactions.
In the near future, messaging apps in the US will do well to take a page out of international playbooks. Brands in Brazil have taken the lead in utilizing WhatsApp for giveaway campaigns, customer service and engagement, accepting contest entries, and news distribution. Using trackable links, along with a designated contact number(or numbers) for these types of campaigns is a perfect fit and allows direct communication with your audience that broadcast platforms don’t allow. Japan’s Line messenger app has not only expanded into its own emoji sticker line, but has incorporated payments, delivery, and even taxi services into its functionality. The U.K.’s Palringo group messenger is turning in huge profits with in-app gamification. No matter the route taken, advertisers need not worry: the closing of one app, merely means the opening of another.