Has Facebook Lost Its Cool?

Mar 15, 2013

A number of years ago, I attended a presentation given by Paco Underhill, founder of Envirosell and author of Why We Buy: The Science of Shopping, in which he warned companies about trying to become cool. As Mr. Underhill explained, things that are cool eventually become uncool and, when that happens, it’s very hard if not impossible to recover. Instead, he argued for sustainable business strategies that avoid the peaks and valleys of trendy enterprises.

I recently thought back to Mr. Underhill’s presentation when a couple of the resident teenagers in the house caught me replying to a Facebook message from an old friend from high school.

"Dad, you’re on Facebook?"

"You do know that nobody goes on Facebook anymore, right?"

Now, I have to admit, I spend very little time on Facebook. I discovered early on that it’s a time drain that interferes with those things I really want to do in my life. But having the kids mock their old man made me wonder if their experience didn’t represent a small sample of Facebook in decline.

So-called "Facebook Fatigue" has been a subject of discussion for a couple of years. An article on The Verge website addressed the same topic earlier this month. It referenced an admission by Facebook in its 10-K that younger users might be seeking out other social media outlets. My kids tell me that everyone is using Instagram these days. Not me, but then again, I’m not cool.

Is Facebook losing its coolness factor? What does this mean for retailers using the social media site? Can you suggest ways Facebook can stay relevant with younger users?

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12 Comments on "Has Facebook Lost Its Cool?"

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Ken Lonyai

Trends and markets are always a factor, but it’s really about added value and user experience. Even way back when George was a teenager, kids wanted to create their own language and space. Facebook has transitioned from a college crowd to a broader and often older crowd, which unsurprisingly is not where teens want to be. Especially mobile teens, that can keep their private space in their pocket.

For retailers, it’s a matter of who they are targeting and what value they can add to users on Facebook, Pinterest, instagram, or the next big thing. Retailers have to be ready to pivot in a world based on internet time—excuse me, mobile time now, if they want to be relevant and top of mind for their consumers.

Zel Bianco

I was just having this conversation earlier this week. I too wanted to know if Facebook isn’t the “cool” thing to do, why are we still so concerned, and what’s the next cool thing? The response to my question? People expect it. Facebook has just become a necessary evil in the method of contact. And kudos to them for engraining themselves into everyday life so much people don’t even remember what it was like before people asked them to “like” things all the time.

For retailers, it makes sense to drive traffic and product awareness and gather customers in a somewhat controlled environment, so I don’t think Facebook is completely out just yet. Younger users are looking for ease of interaction without having to think about it too much. Instagram definitely offers that feature, but as a company you have to decide what mediums make sense for your brand message.

Ryan Mathews
Full disclosure: Paco Underhill “blurbed” my first book, (for which I am eternally grateful) and I rarely disagree with him. In the case of “cool” I both agree and disagree with him, however. In general, Paco is dead right. “Coolness” is the most ephemeral of all brand attributes—just ask Gap, MySpace and whoever is warehousing all those groovy, white polyester Disco suits. That said, one could argue that Facebook hasn’t been cool since it started its sexist analysis of Harvard coeds’ social lives. And, no question, the last place young people want to be found is digitally cohabiting with their parents in some corner of cyberspace where Bruno Mars and Fun are competing with old Beatles’ tunes posted by some granola-eating grandma named Sunshine looking for her long-lost ex-lover. That said, as I pointed out in my book “The Deviant’s Advantage,” that which was once cool, and then not, can be re-monetized—in effect, born-again cool. Think Elvis here. Wicked cool. Banned by churches! His twitching hips were too much for poor Ed Sullivan’s sanctified airways. Now, flash forward to too many years of peanut butter and banana sandwiches chased down by a broad assortment of mind numbing pharmaceuticals, the capes… Read more »
David Zahn

Ryan’s post is cool! He managed to include Beatles, Elvis, Fun and Bruno Mars. In all seriousness, his ability to capture and understand the breadth and depth of the “user audience” demonstrates an insight that our industry is dependent upon—who is your user/shopper today—and who will it be tomorrow.

Facebook may not be as cool as it once was, but it may still do the job needed for the time being (however, we all need to keep our eyes out for what will replace or supplement it).

Karen S. Herman

Facebook continues to connect people in a myriad of ways and will remain relevant. Facebook adapts to you, connecting family, friends, business associates, and now, retail advertising. A lot of analytics determine ads that appear on your Facebook page and retailers are smart to advertise there. Younger users will value Facebook when they need what it provides, connection at a distance to people that are important to them. To this end, Facebook may be the most relevant social networking site around.

Ben Ball

Some really great posts here already, but here’s a couple of other thoughts.

First, Facebook is now the social media of the wealthiest segment of America—the boomers. That will by definition drive teens away, but it is perfect for another purpose—monetizing Facebook.

Second, monetizing Facebook is Zuckerberg’s number one challenge since going public. If you own or follow the stock you are already well aware that all eyes are on the revenue model. It’s a lot easier to make that work if your users have “cash” than “cool.”

Lee Kent

Coolness comes and goes and once Facebook made it ‘cool’ for grown-ups, young people started looking for something else. Don’t they always?

The thing is, Facebook is a reality now, not a flash in the pan. As long as Facebook keeps their thumb on the pulse, they will stay relevant…until they aren’t.

That’s just the way it is.

Craig Sundstrom

Is talking on the phone still “cool” ?? ( and I mean any phone here, even – especially even – landlines) ‘cuz in it’s own way telephoning was the Facebook of a century ago. The answer, of course, is no, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t something everyone does, or that providing that service doesn’t have value… which is to say FB is well on its way to becoming a utility: something of value, but hardly a goldmine to be “monetized”.

Ralph Jacobson

Now Facebook is going to officially utilize hashtags, like Twitter. Ugh. Who honestly cares?

The social media channel outlets will settle soon into one or two channels, like Facebook, or whatever takes its place, over the next 18 months or so. The world will guide what happens next. Time will tell.

Carol Spieckerman

The article in The Verge describes the situation perfectly, particularly the points about bragging (Facebook) vs. sharing (many other options). This isn’t about cool (a concept that arguably is also long in the tooth), it’s about relevance and authenticity.

W. Frank Dell II

I think term is Fad from the ’50s. The younger generations are prone to jumping on the bandwagon and then jumping off. When the issues become how many friends you have, not the quality of friends, long-term is not in the cards. It is likely this generation of teens is leaving, but there is another one behind them. Facebook continues to make inroads with older people. The infrastructure is there for keeping grandparents updated on their grandchildren. With old fashioned letter writing dead, Facebook is a replacement for family members. Uncool does not mean Facebook is dead, only changing its audience.

Mike Osorio
Mike Osorio
4 years 8 months ago

The move from teen fad to institutional communication medium has occurred—and some time ago, “cool” was lost. As some of my colleagues have said, the point is now to monetize the platform since the user group now is the spending generation.


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