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Facebook is losing teens, and new privacy settings won’t change that

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There’s no question that Facebook FB +3.85% is quickly losing teenage users to other social networks Forbes reports. In February, Facebook admitted in its annual 10-K report filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it was aware that younger users were less engaged with the social network than previously. Facebook stated:

“We believe that some of our users, particularly our younger users, are aware of and actively engaging with other products and services similar to, or as a substitute for Facebook. For example, we believe that some of our users have reduced their engagement with Facebook in favor of increased engagement with other products and services such as Instagram. In the event that our users increasingly engage with other products and services, we may experience a decline in user engagement and our business could be harmed.”

In fact, many teens attest to the fact they are abandoning Facebook. In August, 13 year-old Ruby Karp wrote an Op-Ed for Mashable declaring “I’m 13 and None of My Friends Use Facebook”. Karp wrote that all of her friends are using Instagram and Snapchat, and she only has a Facebook account herself “just to see what it was all about. I soon discovered that Facebook is useless without friends. My only friend is, like, my grandma.” She also discovered the dark side of Facebook for the teens who do use it: Bullying. “Kids might comment something mean on a photo of you, or message you mean things. This isn’t Facebook’s fault, but again, it does happen there. If my mom heard I was getting bullied on Facebook, she would tell me to quit right away.” The impact of bullying via social networks on today’s young women – especially sexual harassment – was recently detailed in Vanity Fair.

But Facebook is apparently desperate to keep teenagers and bring back those who have left in droves. It recently made a major change to its privacy policy for its 13-17 year-old users (whom must agree to a different privacy policy and have different settings than adult users). Now, teenagers are allowed to post publicly for the world to see, as well as allow followers. Previously, Facebook prevented teenagers from sharing posts with more than just friends-of-friends, which was designed to protect teenagers from not only strangers, but also themselves. However, teenagers have made it clear with their quick adoption of social networks such as Instagram and Snapchat they want to share everything and with as many people as possible. Does Facebook really think enabling its teenage users to share everything on Facebook, too, will bring back this demographic?

Unfortunately, a simple privacy setting is not Facebook’s problem. Today’s teens are primarily mobile users, spending the majority of their time on their phones and tablets. If teens are using Facebook, it’s via Facebook’s mobile app. Compared to other social apps such as Instagram and Snapchat, Facebook’s app is cumbersome and simply posting an update just takes too much time for these teens. While teens might be spending more time on their phones and tablets than you and me, they don’t want to spend extra time navigating through apps to do what they want. Remember – this generation was raised on technology and doesn’t know life without it. The experience that apps such as Snapchat and Instagram delivers has created an expectation of instant gratification for teens that the current Facebook app just can’t meet.

Though Facebook is making great strides in its mobile strategy, it has a long way to go if it wants to retain the teenage demographic it still has – let alone bring back those that have left. If Facebook can’t do this (and fast) the residual effect may have a drastic impact on the future of the social network, as advertisers will have a decreasing audience they can potential reach — thereby impacting Facebook’s revenue and potential to keep profiting.

One Response to Facebook is losing teens, and new privacy settings won’t change that

  1. Users are also leaving facebook for privacy-based social networks such as Ravetree, EveryMe, etc.

    AndersM
    October 20, 2013 at 6:10 pm
    Reply

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