Mark Zuckerberg’s Head Is On Fire (But Facebook Isn’t Dead)

Most of us have seen the doomsday articles about Facebook in the past few months and pictures of Mark Zuckerberg’s head on fire. The latest algorithm change earlier last month (January, 2018) has the internet in a tizzy. What does this mean for us as marketers…and especially small business marketers?

“Something’s rotten in the state of Facebook.”

“Something’s rotten in the state of Facebook.” (Shakespeare, anyone?) The drama surrounding Facebook’s newest algorithm change (explained in endnote 1) is almost as intense as what you’d find in one of good old Will’s plays…minus the men in tights.

It’s no wonder that some small businesses are thinking of giving up on Facebook and focusing more energy other social media platforms.

This doubt about Facebook makes sense…especially since the negative sentiment isn’t isolated to the business world. Engagement among teens and younger audiences on Facebook is so low that it makes some question the platform’s viability in the long term. After all, our teens are the future and they think facebook is uncool. If they shun Facebook, what future does Facebook have?

…But Facebook Isn’t Dead Yet

This algorithm change and the frustration surrounding it doesn’t spell doom for the social media giant. Why not? Here’s why: Facebook will actually make more money from the algorithm change, teens won’t necessarily ignore the platform forever, and Baby Boomers’ Facebook usage is growing.

1. The Latest Algorithm Change: Those who can afford to will spend more on Facebook

Plenty of marketing managers for small businesses are mumbling four letter words at Mark Zuckerberg right now. We know that the latest algorithm change hurts businesses with lower budgets and these businesses will stop paying so much to engage on the platform, when the return on their investment has become so low.

Businesses that can afford to stay and play Facebook’s pricey new game will…and they’ll spend even more money on the platform. This means more money in Facebook’s pocket…so, financially speaking, Facebook isn’t a sinking ship that marketers can just ignore.

Why would businesses spend more on Facebook if the costs continue to rise?

With 2.2 billion monthly active users (of both sexes and in the broad age range of 25-60), Facebook is sitting on too large of an audience and too broad of a demographic for businesses to ignore. Businesses serving this demographic have no choice but to pay…begrudgingly, but sill pay all the same. Businesses serving outside this demographic and some B2B businesses are a different story.

With so many businesses forced to pay Facebook more to reach the same audiences they were reaching last week at a lower cost, Facebook is in a good place. Mark Zuckerberg’s head may be on fire in those news photos, but in reality, he’s doing the happy dance.

2. Yes, Teens Think Facebook is Uncool…but This Won’t Necessarily Kill Facebook

Today’s teens are tomorrow’s adults and if teens shun Facebook today, well, they’ll surely shun it when they grow up, right? Not necessarily. Qualitative data suggests that their anti-Facebook sentiment may not be permanent. To understand why they may not ignore Facebook forever, we have to understand why they dislike it today.

Teens Don’t Engage On Facebook…But They May Outgrow It

Teens don’t avoid Facebook because they think it’s inherently awful. Multiple sources, including CNET tech news and Social Media Examiner, show that teens avoid Facebook because their parents and other adults use it. They seek freedom to be themselves without adults butting into their lives and having visibility into what they do.

Can we really assume that this behavior will continue into adulthood? It would be a bit strange if it did…since adults use social media to share their lives with family (and friends), not to share with friends only and hide from grown ups.

Today’s teens will be tomorrow’s adults and they ‘ll want to connect with their parents, relatives, and acquaintances to share pictures, thoughts, funny memes and information most adults share on social media.

3. Facebook’s Future Doesn’t All Rest On Teens – Make Way For Baby Boomers

For all of the teens who don’t engage with Facebook, there are plenty of Baby Boomers who do…and plenty more who are joining for the first time. A Pew Research Center study states that Facebook usage in the over 55 demographic is growing substantially and will likely continue. The Boomers aren’t giving up without a fight! They shouldn’t have to!

According to Pew, the Boomers are increasing their technology usage and level of comfort with technology year after year. If Facebook is still around and still reasonably popular 10 to 20 years from now, the 63.7 million Boomers will likely be on it…even into their old age. It’s hard to claim that Facebook is declining with a potential user pool that’s 63.7 million strong!

Facebook Is Still Relevant & Won’t Die Quickly…But It’s Not Invincible Either

The golden rule of business is “Don’t upset your paying customers.” Facebook has managed to break this rule over and over and stay in business. How? Facebook has two separate audiences: (1) the paying customers (businesses) and (2) the personal users \ who make Facebook valuable and relevant. After all, what value is Facebook if individuals aren’t on it? As long as Facebook keeps these personal users (individuals) happy and active on the platform, Facebook can continue to ruffle the feathers of businesses…because businesses will need to pay to reach these individual users. Well played, Zuckerberg…well played.

No business is invincible though. Facebook’s aggressive tactics have made businesses more and more receptive to using competing social media platforms. This could become a slippery slope for Facebook.

********Foot Note********

1 Explanation of Facebook algorithm change: The recent Facebook algorithm change of January 2018 is one of the largest in history, in terms of its impact on businesses and marketing. Facebook is drastically limiting the visibility of posts from businesses, and also giving increased preference to posts that elicit a large number of comments, shares, etc.

The difficulty here is this: How are businesses supposed to elicit high engagement if nobody is seeing their posts in the first place? The answer is that they’re supposed to pay…more than they’ve ever had to pay before, for the same level of engagement. This puts money in Facebook’s pockets and gives large businesses with higher budgets an even greater advantage on Facebook than they already had over smaller businesses. This algorithm change hurts small businesses most.