During Facebook's Q3 earnings call on Wednesday, CFO David Ebersman quietly announced a decrease in teenage daily users during the quarter, especially with younger teens.
Despite the decline in Facebook usage, research shows that the popular social site still remains the dominant social channel among teens 12 to 17, according to Pew Research from May. However, a growing number of teenagers are flocking to emerging sites like Snapchat, Instagram, Vine, and Tumblr, with many indicating their activity of choice on these sites is posting photos.
Younger teens have indicated that they prefer to be more private on social sites--a concealed characteristic of young Millennials. In fact, a coworker of mine was recently telling me how her 16-year-old daughter isn't on Facebook at all because she's a private person, preferring Instagram and Tumblr instead for the photo-posting aspect of the sites.
What are the consequences for marketers? First, marketers must now earn, not buy, engagement from teenagers. Rather than posting ads, they must be present on emerging sites and create campaigns or communities that are authentic in tone and voice. They should be prepared to interact, but not be intrusive. They also must offer something that is useful. Many brands have found that focusing on charitable causes can be effective marketing campaigns and credible ways to connect with their teenage audiences.
Second, they must make a continued investment in rapidly growing sites like Instagram and Snapchat. Taco Bell, for example, premiered the return of the Beefy Crunch Burrito in April via Snapchat. The fast food chain asked its Twitter fans to friend Taco Bell on Snapchat to receive a secret announcement the following day. The Tweet was retweeted and favorited hundreds of times.
Even Acura utilized the Snapchat app to introduce its new prototype, the NSX supercar. The first 100 users who added Acura_Insider received a six-second clip of the car driving around a track.
Whether Ebersman's admission about Facebook's teenage decline will have any consequence on marketing is yet to be seen. For now, marketers must not only keep their fingers on the pulse of emerging social sites and invest in the ones that make the most sense for their audiences; they must also become even more creative and authentic when engaging with their young teenage audiences.