The hardest thing about being king of the social media hill is staying on top.
That’s something commentators and analysts have been watching vis-a-vis Facebook, whose appeal has been dwindling among young people, according to some. That’s despite the fact that it remains the most widely accessed social platform. In fact, among internet users ages 18 to 24, Facebook has a higher penetration level (79 percent) compared with Snapchat’s take (69.6 percent), notes eMarketer.
There’s data — and then there’s anecdotal evidence. More than a few have noticed that more and more of those young people profess a preference for Instagram and/or Snapchat. And that they save Facebook for posts they don’t mind their mothers seeing.
Not all the evidence is anecdotal. Some of it is downright circumstantial.
For instance, Facebook just unveiled an upgrade allowing users to post disappearing photos and videos. It’s modeled, of course, on Snapchat’s signature feature.
“It’s the latest in a series of Snapchat knockoffs by Facebook and its trio of mobile apps Instagram, WhatsApp, and Messenger,” reports eMarketer. “The stream of lookalike features not only signals how seriously Facebook takes the threat of Snapchat, but also the risks Snapchat faces if its key features become available—and widely used—on other platforms.”
Then there are the recently available large font Facebook posts, reserved for entries with about 35 characters. They come off as tweets — or “Facetweets” — and the numbers of such posts are growing. While Twitter enlarges font size for tweets it deems important, Facebook’s type enlargement happens for any brief post whether it’s the titillating “Rachel Maddow has Trump’s tax returns” or the tedious “I’m eating lunch now.”
Armchair analysts could surmise that Facebook intends to rule social media the way Amazon works to command the online retail space.
Real analysts agree.
“As Instagram and Facebook Messenger adopt features previously unique to Snapchat, potential new users may reconsider adding Snapchat to their social portfolio when they can post stories and play with filters on other networks,” said Jaimie Chung, a forecasting analyst at eMarketer. “This trend is especially true for younger age groups.”
Younger users are indeed a critical concern for Facebook as it maneuvers to stay ahead of social space competitors. Recent surveys have found signs of higher enthusiasm for rival platforms (including some of Facebook’s own units — like Instagram).
“A March, 2017 survey conducted by LendEdu found that more than half of college students in the U.S. said they checked their Snapchat notifications first, compared with 27 percent who checked Instagram first, and 13 percent who said the same of Facebook,” notes Chung.
Two things are certain. First, social media will remain an ever-involving sector in which users gravitate for numerous reasons providers will seek to ameliorate. Second, social media executives will continue to have the occasional nightmare — usually involving MySpace.