When Facebook first opened its shares to the public, there was a widespread belief that Facebook had done what companies like MySpace and Friendster couldn’t: it cemented itself as a social media giant that would stand the test of time. Unfortunately, as Facebook’s shares plummeted, it has become increasingly clear that Facebook is just another in a long set of social media trends.
The problem rests in how Facebook operates. Its business model of offering unlimited page views has reduced the effective quality of ad space on the site. Advertisers are paying less for each user as Facebook expands its base, creating stagnation as Facebook users suffer “social media burnout” and begin using the site in smaller amounts. This burnout creates a plateau where growth is no longer possible and ads on the site are no longer as effective as they once were.
Recently, a Pew report was released indicating that social media users are taking longer and longer breaks from the once addictive Facebook. Ironically, while most people have moved away from social media, the Pew report found that those over fifty still use the site on a regular basis. Facebook’s transition from the desirable youth demographic to older generations has made social media undesirable, both to young people and advertisers.
With that in mind, social media companies like Facebook and Twitter have attempted to reinvent themselves in an effort to retain their increasingly hesitant audience. New offerings such as Facebook’s Graph add value to the site by essentially acting as a search engine; meanwhile, Twitter’s Vine has allowed people to operate outside of its character limit to post six second video clips that string together with countless others. It’s not clear what effect these new innovations will have on the social media market, as advertisers still find it difficult to justify purchasing ad space on these sites when their once steady stream of consumer information has been reduced to a trickle.
Critics point to new social media applications like Snapchat as the future of social media: a program that lets users post messages or photos with a time delay. Once the delay has been activated, the photo or message deletes itself as if it had never existed. While this might appeal to users, it renders social media as a way of harvesting information for advertisers and marketers obsolete. As advertisers struggle with the question of their role in social media, small businesses must also reflect on their own role in the social media burnout.
Ultimately, whether or not social media is here to stay will rest on marketers and the role advertisers play in supporting this currently stagnating field. All hope is not lost though, if businesses can find a way to reignite interest in social media and find a way that makes fiscal sense for them to be involved, the relationship between businesses and social media could become what it was once again.