UK Teens and Social Media - Is Facebook Dying?
by Jo Shaer, on November 25, 2013
I was asked by a local secondary school to give my social media workshop to their year 12 and 13 students who are doing a business studies course.
They were a good bunch, who listened attentively and asked some great questions.
But it was an extremely interesting experience from a business point of view. And gave me plenty of hands-on experience to answer this blog post about whether Facebook was dying.
The students were involved in a case study where they had to choose a business and then spend a virtual £2000 promoting it.
The three businesses mentioned were a local hotel, a cake shop and a local theme park.
Ideas for promoting - loyalty cards, discount days, ads in local newspapers, a radio ad and social media.
They all seemed to think that social media would be cheap and very effective. They could get fans and then get those followers to share the news about their loyalty cards and discount days with their friends to get more likes.
It was a bit of a shock to them when they discovered the reality is rather different.
UK Teens and Social Media
I asked the teenagers in the different groups which social media platforms they knew.
Everyone was familiar with Facebook and most had a personal profile.
Over half were on Twitter.
A large proportion were aware of Instagram.
About 5 of the 70 young people I saw had a Google+ account.
And none of them had a clue what LinkedIn was.
Teenagers and Facebook
I had assumed that they would be pretty clued up about social media but I was very wrong. Even though most of them used Facebook, very few had any idea about the privacy settings. No one knew about the Other Inbox.
None of them knew that business pages are different from personal profiles and that businesses could not communicate directly with people - only put up status updates that their fans might or might not see depending on Facebook's algorithm.
Certainly none of them admitted to ever liking a business page.
Whilst most of them had seen the ads in the sidebar and news feed, they all denied clicking on any of them.
Now that's really alarming when you consider that these guys are going to become a very important demographic over the next couple of years.
I asked them what they did use social media for.
Chatting with their mates and checking out local events was the answer.
So, back to the business angle. I showed them how to set up their Facebook page so that any fans could write on their walls or send the business a private message.
We talked about how social media is about getting found, attracting fans and then turning those fans into leads by getting their email address.
Some of them got quite excited about the prospect of being able to communicate with potential customers away from Facebook.
We also discussed Facebook ads and how they could be targeted at a very precise demographic to gain more emails.
And about how the emails we acquired could be used to find additional similar people to target with our ads.
We also talked about using Facebook Offers and Events .
However, they started to realise that it was going to take quite a chunk out of their £2k budget to do all this.
Teenagers and LinkedIn
I ran a small section of my workshop on the strategy of using LinkedIn to get a job if you were a school leaver.
The research for this was mainly via US websites since there are so few people covering this area in the UK. The US gurus advised that the teenagers should connect with HR people from businesses that they might want to work for in the future. They also suggested that the pupils connect with any of their teachers who were on LinkedIn and ask them to endorse or recommend them for some skills.
Talking to one of the teachers afterwards, she admitted that she had deleted her Facebook account because the students kept trying to friend her and it was inappropriate. I couldn't help but agree with her.
LinkedIn should be different. But will the students have the maturity to understand that this is a business platform where you are trying to showcase your potential? Especially if those students are as young as 13 which is, I believe, now the age limit for joining LinkedIn. And will any teachers take a chance by connecting with any pupil who does send them a personalised invitation? Only if both are educated on how to use LinkedIn properly.
More importantly, will UK professionals connect with a LinkedIn teenager who is under 18? Even those in Human Resources who are involved with school leaver programmes?
So are the traditional social media platforms dying as far as teenagers are concerned?
Is Facebook dying? Well, not exactly. These teenagers clearly spent a lot of time on the platform engaging with each other and ignoring the ads. They found the ads intrusive - just like the rest of us who use Facebook to chat with friends across the globe.
I would say that Facebook needs to look to the future. It needs to educate these young people so they embrace the possibilities of its advertising culture as young entrepreneurs. And they need to offer them some kind of kickback to make it worth their while if they are not going to be using the platform for business promotion.
But I would give similar words of caution to both Twitter and LinkedIn - both of whom are moving further into the world of business advertising.
Social Media adverts are going back into the world of outbound marketing - they are interrupting and disruptive. Yes, from a business point of view they are inbound in that they are putting ads in front of targeted consumers. But they are relying on the goodwill of people who are not there to buy.
It would be very easy for the main social media platforms to become irrelevant to the teenage market... because their focus is now about pleasing the advertisers rather than the users.