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There has been a lot of talk in recent months about the decline of Facebook’s popularity, particularly among teens and young adults. Coupled with that, Facebook announced that there will be a sharp decline in brand page content showing up in News Feeds starting January 2015.This begs the question, should we still teach students to write for Facebook?
A recent article on Bloomberg explores a dip in use by teens. Here’s The Next Web’s take on the purported exodus. Zuck has argued against this in the past when the issue has come up, essentially stating that there isn’t growth in the platform among young people because that market is already saturated. And, while the headlines might be attention grabbing – the reported dip is to 88% usage among teens (down from 94 in 2013).
But there does seem to be something to the declining popularity of Facebook. The students in my classes express growing disinterest in Facebook. They never cite it as their “go to” social media platform. Several this past semester and the one before it cited concerns of privacy in posting too much about oneself online. When it comes to our students, it does feel like we are getting less engagement on our department Facebook page than we did in recent years.
Then there are articles like “Why I would Give Up Facebook in a Heartbeat” by Mandy Edwards who discusses how she finds the site content-boring, overwrought, filled with annoying posts and requests for group games, among other things.
Worse still, and perhaps the most important, is news regarding the decline in reach brands receive on account of their content not showing up in the News Feed of persons who have liked their brand page. Concerns over this issue has been going on since 2013, to my understanding. This article in the Guardian chronicles the decline and asks whether Facebook is trying to force brands to pay to play.
And despite all of this, I’m going to teach my students to write for Facebook in my Writing Across Platforms class this spring semester like I did when I taught it last spring.
When I was considering course adjustments to work on over the winter break, I originally thought about dropping teaching the platform from the social media writing portion of my Writing Across Platforms course. In the past, I’ve taught Facebook and Twitter in this section. But an email conversation with a colleague made me realize that doing so would be a bit preemptive.
Yes, Facebook maybe isn’t what it was a few years ago. But that doesn’t mean we should jump ship. There’s a lot students can learn from learning to write for different platforms. These are a few of the reasons I’m sticking with teaching professional writing for brands on Facebook (for now).
1) A LOT of people still use Facebook. 88% of young people using Facebook is a lot. And what about us old people? 🙂 There are 1.35 billion active users, according to Facebook.
2) Over a billion people went to Facebook brand pages in October 2014, according to Facebook
3) There are over 50 million business pages, according to Edwards.
4) Employers are still seeking employees to create content for Facebook. So students still need to be trained to do write for it. Even among threatening to leave FB, Edwards herself, who owns a social media marketing business, states the value it brings to her clients.
5) The platform isn’t everything – We are training students to be adaptable. So the way I structure my lecture, I’m teaching skills. Facebook is just the platform they are writing for. But the content planning and writing techniques behind them are transferable to… (insert social media platform of tomorrow). In fact, in my assignment, students create a content plan for Facebook and Twitter along with blog posts. They plan and write content across these platforms. We discuss the differences between the platforms, what they afford, and potential audience demographic differences. Which ties into…
6) As a platform to teach, I like the variety it gives as a counter to 140 character constraints of Twitter. I find Facebook to be a good counter-balance to the limits of Twitter in my assignment.
So where will things go in the future? I’m not sure. Maybe I won’t be teaching Facebook writing in a year. But I wont’ be surprised if I am.
So what’s the #1 thing I considered replacing writing for Facebook brand posts for? Well, I was leaning towards teaching writing for Facebook ads to bolster my students’ experience in the Paid side of the PESO model (I’ve taught Paid Owned Earned in the past, but liking the way this model is presented and differentiates content).
Things certainly are moving towards more Paid as part of the mix. Sponsored Tweets and Instagram posts. And now Facebook’s cornering brands into buying ads. Then you’ve got native advertising trends (something I’m going to explore in my Principles of PR this semester). And it seems an area I could do a stronger job in, is covering Paid. But alas, it often feels like teaching is a zero-sum – there are only so many topics and so much time it can be hard to pick and choose.
What changes are you making to what you’re teaching this upcoming semester? Do you agree with my decision to stick with Facebook – Why? What do you recommend? Do you teach paid, and if so, how?
I’d love to chat!
graphic: Wikimedia Commons