Gen Z Social Media Technology

Facebook’s not getting any younger; neither are its users

By Ciara Cassidy, Research Assistant



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March 13, 2024 | 7 min read

Last month, Facebook celebrated its 20th birthday. Ciara Cassidy reflects on the platform's remarkable journey, its current position in the digital landscape – and the competitors snapping at its heels.

Facebook pin badges scattered on a white background

Facebook's popularity has held steady over the last two decades, despite its many rivals. / Kenny Eliason via Unsplash

Two decades on Facebook has aged gracefully, maintaining its status as one of the most influential and pervasive social media platforms in the world.

For brand awareness, Facebook remains unrivaled, boasting an astounding 98% recognition among the UK population, according to our latest BrandVue data. This dominance is largely thanks to Facebook’s pioneering role in the social networking landscape.

The data also confirms that Facebook has a higher proportion of consumers saying they’d consider using it (50%) than Instagram (39%).

And, when it comes to brand love, Facebook holds its ground admirably. With 17% of the population stating they ‘love’ the platform, its neck-and-neck with TikTok, which boasts a slightly higher 18%. Both platforms overshadow X (formerly Twitter), which lags significantly behind – only 8% of consumers say they love X.

However, when zooming in on the responses of gen Z, this figure (17%) falls to just 3%.

So, despite positive figures at a total level, when we isolate gen Z, it’s clear the youngsters are more taken by Facebook’s successors, TikTok and Instagram.

Different platforms serve different purposes

So what do they look for in a social media platform?

Findings from Savanta’s State of the Youth Nation Tracker reveal the primary motive driving gen Z's use of Facebook is to maintain connections with people they already know. In 2023, almost half (45%) of gen Z Facebook users said they used it for this reason, and this has been the key driver since 2015.

What we can see from this data is that – despite a brief uplift in usage for entertainment purposes from 2018-19 – gen Z’s reasons for using Facebook are becoming less important. This steady decline is reflective of gen Z's dwindling engagement overall.

Correspondingly, we found that three out of four gen Z would be happy to give up Facebook (BrandVue Media, 2023). Although, this sentiment does not extend to Facebook Messenger, which continues to enjoy popularity as a preferred means of staying connected with close friends.

As of 2023, Instagram has solidified its position as the top choice among young users, boasting a usage rate of 38%. However, it's essential to recognize that gen Z's use of Instagram differs slightly, with reasons for use largely revolving around seeking entertainment.

This trend underscores a broader shift in social media dynamics, where platforms are transitioning from being predominantly social to increasingly media-focused. But, even though Instagram serves as a hub for many types of engagement, YouTube emerges as the preferred destination for entertainment, with a staggering 63% of gen Z users turning to the platform for this purpose. TikTok isn’t so far behind, with 60% utilizing the platform primarily for entertainment.

This surge in the popularity of entertainment-centric media apps marks a departure from traditional social networking platforms like Facebook. Arguably it is TikTok’s success that has caused a ripple effect across the social media landscape, with platforms like Instagram incorporating similar features, such as Reels, to cater to the demand for quick, scrollable content. As the digital landscape continues to evolve, these shifts underscore the importance of adaptability and innovation in staying relevant within the dynamic realm of social media.

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Generation Alpha offers Facebook fresh opportunity

Losing younger demographics to trendier apps is fairly common, but not necessarily indicative of failure. Facebook's resilience over the past two decades is commendable. They are constantly incorporating features like Marketplace, Stories, games, and livestreams to maintain much-needed relevance. Plus, its savvy acquisition of both WhatsApp and Instagram spoke volumes to its strategic foresight – broadening its user base and positioning Meta as a major player.

But Facebook's not getting any younger – and as it stands, neither are its users. However, the emergence of generation Alpha presents a fresh opportunity. Less familiar with the digital landscape, this impressionable demographic provides Facebook with a somewhat clean slate to market and appeal to.

Facebook now has the chance to mould itself as a guiding force for the digital natives of this market. Though, to position itself as a companion for this generation, understanding their needs is key.

Gen Z Social Media Technology

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