Facebook losing friends among younger generation, says study

Some 2.2 million people in the UK between the ages of 12 and 17, or 71% of social network users in this age bracket, will be using Facebook regularly in 2018 – representing a reduction on earlier forecasts.

Market intelligence group eMarketer, which conducted the research as part of a report on UK digital users, says the figure is a downgrade of eight percentage points over its previous forecast.

The study also estimates Facebook usage among 18- to 24-year-olds will reduce by more than five percentage points. This year, a not insignificant 83% of social network users aged 18-24 will apparently be Facebook users, but this share will drop to 81.5% by 2021.

For businesses such as retailers looking to target younger generations on social media there is still a large Facebook audience to tap into, with the overall number of users in the UK expected to reach 32.6 million in 2018, but the drop among younger age groups suggests its rivals are taking some of the share.

According to eMarketer, Snapchat is leading the charge for younger audiences, and in 2018, close to 43% of UK social network users will log onto the social media site – more than double its penetration rate from 2015.

“Facebook has a teen problem," said Bill Fisher, eMarketer’s UK senior analyst.

“This latest forecast indicates that it’s more than a theory. And whereas it’s been able to rely on platform shifters being hoovered up by Instagram, there are now some early signs that younger social networkers are being swayed by Snapchat. The challenge and opportunity for Snap is how to appeal beyond that core youth demographic.”

Facebook’s head of global retail and eCommerce strategy, Martin Barthel, spoke about the social media site’s relationship with retailers at the National Retail Federation’s Big Show in New York in January.

He called on retailers to figure out how they use digital to drive their in-store businesses, and said Facebook wants to partner with them to accelerate this journey. He indicated that 53% of shoppers prefer to buy from a retailer they can message, and revealed that over two billion messages are sent between people and businesses on the website every month.

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