Are Marketers About to Face Facebook Fatigue?

Oct 21, 2011

Call it a building generational misstep.

Just as marketers seem to be catching on to social media’s professional usefulness, new data suggests sites like Facebook may be losing some of its youngest faces, today’s college students and recent graduates, who will soon form the next generation of adult consumers. Fed up with the site’s frequent rules changes, feared invasions of privacy, and overwhelmed by the never-ending stream-of-consciousness thoughts that seems to ooze from its millions of users, so-called “Facebook Fatigue” is growing.

The “disease,” which was diagnosed by Inside Facebook, a blog who owes its existence to tracking all things Facebook, (along with social gaming and mobile applications), found that while the number of Facebook users continues to grow, growth rates have slowed. In the US, some 6 million users have defriended the social media site, dropping its total number of nationwide users to 149 million, down from 155 million in recent months, a nearly 4 percent drop. Across the pond, UK Facebook user numbers also took a dip, where 100,000 people –out of about 30 million users – deleted their accounts.

So what’s the big deal if Facebook’s portrait these days isn’t as bright?

The Facebook usage study coincides with marketing research that suggests Fortune 100 companies –if belatedly – plan to ramp up their spending sharply on social media campaigns in 2012. A summer 2011 study by Booz & Co. and Buddy Media, as reported on eMarketer, found that nearly a third of respondents said they expected to grow their social media budgets to as high as 10 percent of their overall marketing budget in the next three years. More than a quarter, (28 percent) predicted their social media spending would surge to 20 percent of their marketing spending.

As with any hot new trend like social media at large and Facebook up close, it’s critical marketers, aided by their in-house and external Public Relations partners, remain fresh with the times. Anyone remember Friends Reunited, Bebo, (short for Blog Early, Blog Often) and MySpace? Well, maybe you remember them, but when was the last time you checked your profile or sent a post? Chances are it’s been a while.

Thanks to the growing bonds between social media and mobile communications, its likely the new medium will continue discovering ways to reinvent itself and maintain popularity. In other words, if it’s not Facebook or Twitter, chances are it’ll be something else.

So is there a building generational misstep?

It’s too soon to tell. But when marketers express confidence over their social media spending plans, remind them that on today’s fast-changing digital high seas, it’s easy to miss the boat.

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