The Wall Street Journal posted an interesting article on Changing Face of Social Networks earlier this week, suggesting “five years is a lifetime for the average teenager’s habits,” citing the rise of MySpace, until its eclipse by Facebook two years later as an example. Current research indicates that the trend continues, with facebook usage by 18–24 year-olds diminishing over the last three months.
While teen interest may be rapidly fleeting, chasing them is not necessarily your best bet, unless they are your target market. For traditional business with a wider demographic, especially business-to-business, the current heavyweights of social networking, such as Facebook (currently the two ranked website by Alexa, second only to Google) is worth sticking with.
On the other hand, Facebook usage by the over thirty-five is growing, with those over fifty-five growing even more rapidly. What older individuals have realized is that social networks are wasted on the young. While Facebook was originally created to keep college students up-to-date on what each other was doing on campus, was a global tool really necessary, where they are just as likely to see their “friends” in class or on campus? For teens, this is even more the case, and explains why they can switch social networks quickly.
For the older set that went to school before email and the Internet, websites like Facebook allow people to reconnect with real-life friends (as opposed to the virtual kind) they may not have seen in decades. As people move across the country, and the globe, reconnecting only works effectively with a large global network. I have watched this in action with my own high school graduating class of 1985, watching as the ranks grew from about 2% of the class when I joined Facebook a few years ago, through today when about 50% of the class has signed up.
While the only certainty in the social network landscape is that new players will emerge, and former leaders will fall, it is probably a safe bet to stick with your current selection, until they no longer prove valuable to your business. While it is worth investigating the latest trends, don’t abandon what works—your target demographic will switch networks much more slowly (if at all) than the tweens and teens do.