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Is Facebook 'Dead' for the Small Business Owner?

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This is a question I've been asked quite a bit lately. By "dead" I mean, "Can small business owners still expect to gain a positive return on their investment of the time, energy and other resources necessary to maintain an effective Facebook presence?"

With new social networking sites springing up constantly, it is tempting to spend what little time you have for social media hunting in more fertile grounds -- if there are any, right?

Not yet and I will tell you why.

At times like these, I always think it's best to let the numbers tell the story. So let's start with Facebook's relatively current numbers.

Current Facebook Stats (December, 2013)

First, let's cover the recent Facebook user and content statistics:

1. Worldwide Users: Approximately 1 billion active users worldwide.

2. U.S. Users: 180 million users in the U.S. alone.

3. Content: 2.5 billion pieces of content shared each day.

That is a lot of people with a lot of activity and, quite frankly, too big and too active of a market to ignore.

So let's look at users by age to see who is using Facebook. Research done by iStrategyLabs, comparing Facebook usage in 2011 and January 2014, shows some interesting usage trends:

  • 25-34 is up 32.6 percent
  • 35-54 is up 41.4 percent
  • 55+ is up 80.4 percent (!)
  • 13-17 is down 25.3 percent
  • 18-24 is down 7.5 percent

The most shocking stats are the loss in the teenage demographic (a staggering three million teens in the U.S. alone) and the gain in the older demographics.

So what does this mean? Facebook is aging and starting to appeal more to adults than children. This is actually good for small business owners, well unless your business caters exclusively to teens and even then it is not so bad. Older people typically have more disposable income than younger people. Their years of paying for braces and saving for college are over. Even though there may be less 13-year-olds on Facebook to buy your products directly, there are many more of their parents and grandparents out there to buy it for them.

Also, while the trends in the younger demographics are alarming for Facebook, the absolute numbers are still quite good. Sixty-six percent of millenials are still on Facebook, as compared to 29 percent on Twitter.

Image courtesy of InSites Consulting

Looking at these statistics alone, it's clear that Facebook isn't dying (as some have suggested), and is still light years ahead of other social networking sites in terms of active user base numbers. Although usage among teens and 20-somethings is declining, it is still the most popular social network across the board.

What Fans Want From Small Businesses on Facebook

So what is the role of Facebook for small business owners? Are consumers still looking to connect with businesses on Facebook?

According to a survey by Syncapse, users become a brand fan on Facebook for the following reasons:

  • To support a brand they like (49 percent)
  • To get a coupon or discount (42 percent)
  • To receive regular updates from a brand they like (41 percent)
  • To participate in contests (35 percent)
  • To share personal good experiences (31 percent)
  • To share interests/lifestyle with others (27 percent)
  • To research brands when looking for specific products (21 percent)
  • Seeing friends already 'liked' a brand (20 percent)
  • From seeing a brand advertised elsewhere (18 percent)
  • From being referred by a friend (15 percent)

I think the answer to the question is a resounding "Yes". Users still want to connect with businesses on Facebook.

The long and short of it is that no, Facebook is not dead for small business owners. While businesses need to be cognizant of who they are marketing to, and where this demographic is active online, there is no indication that Facebook is on its way out anytime soon.

Have you noticed a decline in the growth of your Facebook business page? If your target market is millenials, are you venturing into other social networks like Instagram, Vine or SnapChat? Share with us in the comments below!