Hot Take: Facebook Is Doomed

Hot Take: Facebook Is Doomed

It's time to face facts: Facebook is in serious trouble, and its days of dominance as a marketing platform are probably numbered.

For over a decade, Facebook has reigned supreme as the go-to social media site for businesses looking to reach customers. With over 2.9 billion monthly active users, it's been hard to ignore. Thanks to its tempting promise of unparalleled audience size and targeted advertising capabilities, the social media network has convinced many marketers that it offers the greatest potential for engagement and ROI. As marketers, we’ve invested heavily in building communities and running ads on Facebook.

But its popularity and effectiveness for marketers have been deteriorating rapidly in recent years. Usage has declined sharply among younger demographics, with teens opting for newer, "cooler" apps like TikTok. Overall engagement rates on Facebook pages have dropped to low levels, organic reach has plummeted, and businesses frequently complain about poor returns from investing in Facebook ads.

Facebook’s Future Fades

The events of the past few years - from the Cambridge Analytica scandal to countless data leaks - have also severely damaged public trust in the platform. Facebook just isn't as "hip" or influential as it once was, and for many users its reputation has gone from trendy tech startup to creepy data hoarder. Marketers can’t ignore the signs that Facebook is providing diminishing returns.

When I examine the mounting statistics, they paint a bleak picture for Facebook's future as a marketing channel. In this “hot take,” I’ll discuss why the time has come for brands to start re-evaluating their Facebook marketing strategies and consider alternatives. While you may not want to jump ship yet, Facebook's glory days in the marketing world are over as audience attention shifts elsewhere.

Pew Research bar chart showing teen use of Facebook has declined sharply since 2014

Calling Off the Engagement

It's not just Facebook's usership that is declining - engagement rates on Facebook have dropped precipitously as well. This suggests that even those users who remain active on Facebook are less attentive and responsive than they once were.

Facebook's algorithm changes have exacerbated this problem enormously. Organic posts on Facebook used to average 16% reach in 2014 but averaged as low as 5.2% in 2021. Paid advertising now accounts for the vast majority of views, as organic visibility has nearly vanished. Businesses are forced to rely on ads just to reach their existing followers.

But even Facebook ads appear to be losing potency. Many marketers complain of skyrocketing costs and lower conversion rates on FB advertising. As users scroll past promoted posts, click-through rates have dropped. And without detailed targeting data due to Apple's privacy changes, ads can't be personalized as they once were.

Between vanishing organic reach and reduction in ad performance, Facebook’s engagement is not what it used to be. Maintaining an audience requires unsustainably high ad spends, pointing to the platform's disappearing relevance among once fervent users.

Three Gen Z youth in brightly colored clothes enjoy electronic devices

Gen Z’s Aversion to Conversion

Facebook's decline is further underscored by their inability to effectively monetize younger demographics, both on Facebook itself and their other properties like Instagram. This does not bode well for long-term revenue growth.

Younger users have been difficult for Facebook to commercialize given their lower attention span for ads and wariness of branded content. Ad recall is poor among Gen Z markets, and young consumers have proven challenging for Facebook to convert via retargeting efforts. Their interests are also more fragmented across many niche apps.

Controversies like the 2021 "Instagram Kids" project have highlighted Facebook's scramble to get a foothold with pre-teen users. But attempts to aggressively expand their underage audience have sparked backlash over child safety and screen time concerns. Regulations may curb Facebook's options for participating in this market.

And investors have grown skittish about Facebook's dependence on aging audiences. Over half of its user base is now 35+, leaving the platform vulnerable as younger generations shift to new networks. Focusing innovation on attracting youth has become more urgent.

But these efforts will likely continue facing headwinds as younger consumers remain wary of Facebook's data handling and uninterested in its fading brand cachet. Facebook's formula for monetization depends on high engagement from demographics it increasingly struggles to capture.

Video Killed the Status-Quo Star

The rise of mobile and video usage presents another existential threat to Facebook's relevance for marketers. While visual, video-centric apps like TikTok and Snapchat now dominate youth attention, Facebook remains stubbornly text and image focused.

Mobile video consumption has exploded, expected to comprise over 85% of online traffic by 2022. But Facebook was late to embrace video and has failed to meaningfully differentiate its offerings. YouTube, TikTok and Snapchat all outpace Facebook for short-form video innovation and usership.

And despite talk of a "pivot to video," Facebook itself is still predominantly geared to desktop usage. Complex cross-platform video uploads and poor mobile video viewer experience indicate Facebook has yet to crack the mobile experience.

This opens opportunities for other social platforms to siphon away marketing dollars as video advertising matures. With richer formats like Stories and vertical video, newer apps provide better canvases for impactful video ads. As audiences fragment across apps, Facebook's one-stop "walled garden" looks increasingly outdated.

The trends toward mobile and video dominance show no signs of stopping. As consumers spend more time watching and engaging with video on their phones, Facebook risks losing both users and marketing dollars to competitors riding the video-first paradigm shift.

Michael Cheng,
Account Manager

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