Over the past ten years, Facebook has become a huge presence on the web. Whether it’s through the explosive growth of its ad platform (weirdly corresponding to a decline in organic reach), its IPO, its multiple acquisitions or even the Cambridge Analytica scandal, this digital giant left no one indifferent.
After such a remarkable decade, the future of Facebook is intriguing, to say the least. To a large extent, the social network sculpted our relationship with technology, our digital content consumption habits and our concept of privacy. And these collective transformations, in turn, led to a change in the way brands needed to act in order to reach their customers.
Without further ado, here are our predictions about the future of Facebook.
Facebook has officially hit a plateau in terms of active users in the Western world. We’re even seeing a slight drop in some markets, particularly Western Europe. And it’s no surprise; extremely high penetration rates in those markets (as high as 80% for some age groups) leave little room for growth, which is now limited to the 55 plus age group. It’s the younger users that Facebook is having a hard time retaining or even acquiring – many have closed their accounts, and others (mainly adolescents) never had one to begin with.
To catch up, Facebook will rely on Instagram, which is very popular among young people. However, in the long term, the company will be hard pressed to counter many users’ desires to reduce the amount of time they spend on social media, or even get off social media altogether. If users are the raw material that powers the Facebook machine, the future is uncertain.
Brands tend to be hesitant, even late, to adopt new trends. So, while Facebook’s popularity took off in 2006, many brands failed to integrate it into their strategy before 2010. Today, brands are more disoriented than ever in the face of the proliferation of digital platforms on which they could have a point of contact with consumers. Understanding a new platform, building an audience, and creating and sharing content requires a significant investment. That’s why many brands prefer to stick to their existing assets and let the competition be the guinea pigs before trying new communications channels.
How many times have we heard about companies who held off on jumping into Snapchat until the arrival of Instagram Stories? And how many others are now asking themselves the same questions about TikTok?
If brands are constantly lagging behind users on social networks, they are bound to be the last to jump ship from Facebook. A future where your newsfeed looks more like a flyer isn’t far off.
In the short term, a definitive replacement is unlikely. Facebook is still an extremely effective tool that is able to reach consumers at every stage of the conversion funnel, and for now at least it has an impressive number of active, captive users.
Is it wise for companies to pre-emptively keep an eye out for other options? Absolutely. Putting all your eggs in the same basket creates a dependency that can be dangerous when a platform changes the rules of the game. Many brands were left in the lurch as their organic reach dropped year after year, after having built large communities.
In anticipation of an eventual change in user behaviour, the key for marketers is to focus efforts on owned media, like their website or relationship marketing program.