Facebook’s aging user base is a threat to the social network’s long-term existence. The established narrative is that the social network will collapse if younger generations simply stop using Facebook. It’s surely too early to tell, but the demographic trends present an interesting question for marketers: how can Facebook take advantage of the higher incomes of older individuals while maintaining relevancy in the digital age?
The problem is not that Facebook is getting older as much as teens aren’t using it as often. Over the past three years, use among teenagers aged 13-17 has dropped by a quarter, or about 3 million kids. Conversely, baby boomer growth has boomed, growing by about 80% in the same period. That means there are currently more baby boomers on the site (~15 million) than teenagers (~10 million).
So yes, while targeting baby boomers will prove quite lucrative in the short-term, the long-term fundamentals could unwind if the current generation of teens doesn’t sign up as adults. But Facebook’s smart, and the fact that so many older individuals continue to sign up shows that growth is still a priority. They’re not forgetting about younger users, and they still have tons of money to throw behind acquisitions such as Instagram, whose 130 million active users have really shored up Facebook’s defenses on the youth front.
But a strategy that relies on acquiring the hot new social startups is not the way to go. Acquainted with the SnapChat saga of last year, Facebook can’t buy everything it wants, and we may even see a new generation of entrepreneurs unwilling to sell to Zuckerberg, even at top dollar.
Does this all spell doom and gloom for the social behemoth? Not necessarily. Facebook’s powerful analytics and advertising platform will only become more efficient and provide new insights for marketers and users alike. Similarly, the algorithms that display content in a user’s feed will hopefully improve as well.
But maybe this is all a good thing. Maybe Facebook was good for the web in which it was built, before YouTube and even Barak Obama. The web was way different back then and it’ll be even wayer different ten years from now. Unless Facebook find a way to evolve, possibly splintering into the constituent parts of youth online experiences, then there’s no way it’s going to be as important in a world completely changed by its own wake.