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Thoughts from Cuckoo HQ
Jan 15

How Facebook’s Demographic Shift is Changing Event Marketing

There is a big change taking place in the social media world. The teenagers and 20-somethings who helped build Facebook into a $200Bn company are now leaving the platform en-masse for alternate avenues.

This isn’t just anecdotal evidence and hysterical hearsay; a significant body of research indicates that Facebook’s younger audience really is thinning out.

Take this recent Pew Research study, which says that while Facebook remains the ‘home base’ for most, a growing share of younger users are departing for alternate platforms.

TIME, meanwhile, says that 11 million teens have left Facebook since 2011.

You’ve probably seen this first hand as ancient memes and tired lists culled from Reddit crowd your news feed.

The important question for event marketers is: how do Facebook’s changing demographics affect event marketing – if at all?

For answers, read on.

How to Respond to Facebook’s Demographic Shift

Most marketers are heavily invested in Facebook. After all, it was – and remains – the dominant social network for all age groups with some 1.3 billion members.

However, as younger audiences leave Facebook, marketers have to essentially rethink their social media strategy and allocate resources to newer platforms. This is particularly true for youth-oriented brands.

As I see it, this demographic shift poses two key challenges for event marketers:

  1. Understanding the platforms where younger audiences are headed after leaving Facebook.
  2. Figuring out an effective social media strategy for these new platforms.

Let us look at these two challenges in more detail.

Where Have All the Teenagers Gone?

To understand the impact of Facebook’s shifting demographics on event marketing, we have to first understand why younger audiences are leaving Facebook and where they are headed.

According to ABC News, the following platforms have gobbled up most of the younger audiences dropping off Facebook:

  1. Instagram
  2. Snapchat
  3. WhatsApp
  4. Kik
  5. WeChat
  6. Line, etc.

This list shouldn’t be surprising to anyone. Instagram, WhatsApp, etc. are so popular among millennials that Facebook even paid a combined $22.8 billion to buy them.

Since WhatsApp, Kik, WeChat, Line, etc. are essentially private messaging apps, I’m going to focus on the two major names on this list, Instagram and Snapchat, and see why they are attracting younger users.

Understanding the Appeal of Instagram

Instagram is now the fourth-most popular social networking site in the world with more than 300M members. It’s user base also skews younger with nearly 90% of its users below the age of 35.

While the underlying reasons for people leaving Facebook for Instagram can fill up a marketing dissertation, Instagram’s popularity can mostly be chalked up to a few reasons:

  • Instagram’s visual-only content is easier to share. After all, visuals are processed 60,000x faster than text.
  • Instagram’s images tend to be of a higher quality than pictures on Facebook, thanks to filters, cropping, colour correction and a community emphasis on higher quality images.
  • Instagram lets you carefully control what you see in your feed. As one teenager puts it, there is no social pressure to ‘friend’ an acquaintance on Instagram. Moreover, lack of links mean there are no annoying list posts crowding your feed.
  • Perhaps most importantly, there are no parents on Instagram (yet), making it a safe haven for younger users.

This brings us to the other competitor, Snapchat.

Understanding the Appeal of Snapchat

Snapchat, the ephemeral picture-sharing app has huge mind-share among younger users. By one estimate, Snapchat hosts some 400 million pictures every day and has over 100 million users. It is also used largely by younger users – AdWeek says that that 71% of Snapchat’s audience is 25 and younger.

With the recent launch of ‘Stories’ on Snapchat, the app has also become a popular way to publicly share pictures.

You can attribute Snapchat’s popularity to a number of reasons:

  • Ephemeral images. Pictures on Snapchat die out after a few seconds, which means they don’t crowd up your phone gallery. This also dramatically changes the kind of pictures that are shared.
  • Action-driven content. Since images are automatically deleted after a few seconds, the viewer has a very short time to view the image or take action. As any marketer worth her salt will tell you, deadlines are the easiest way to inspire action in users.
  • Less effort-intensive. In contrast with Instagram, pictures on Snapchat are not meant to be high quality. Users use the service to share things as mundane as the morning breakfast. This not only leads to users taking more pictures, but also affects the quality and type of pictures taken.
  • No parents and private sharing. Not to beat a dead horse, but the fact that there are no parents and all pictures are private (which means parents can’t snoop in even if they were on the platform) helps a lot.

Which takes us to the all-important question: what should your social media strategy look like in a post-Facebook world?

Your Event Marketing Strategy After Facebook

Keen-eyed readers will have already noticed the one constant in these social platforms: they all revolve around visual content.

Visual content is in sharp contrast to Facebook, which, despite the impressive amount of images it hosts, still emphasises text – status updates, links, etc.

The dominance of visual content through Instagram, Snapchat, etc. requires that you update your event’s social media strategy as well. You can’t simply share a link to a blog post on your Facebook and call it a day anymore; you have to find, create and share the right type of visual content to leave a real mark on your target audience.

In real world terms, this means you must:

Focus on branding, not traffic

Marketing on Facebook is relatively straightforward: share a link on your page, promote the link through Facebook ads, measure click through traffic, repeat.

Generating results isn’t quite as straightforward on Instagram or Snapchat. There is no way to directly share links with your followers. You can include URLs in your updates, but these won’t be clickable; anybody who wants to visit your site will have to type-in the URL directly.

Thus, instead of creating clickworthy content (the kind that earns Upworthy / Buzzfeed those insane CTRs), marketing on Instagram and Snapchat should be directed towards brand building.

Here’s a high-level overview of how to do this:

  • Think deeply about your brand values: what matters to you? What matters to your audience? What is the best way to represent this intersection of values visually?
  • Create a detailed visual guidebook for your brand. This should include everything from colour choices to typographical selections that correlate to your brand values.
  • Use the visual guidebook created in (2) to create and share content on Instagram and Snapchat. Select evocative images that expand on your brand’s core values – fun, sophisticated, smart, etc.

Essentially, event marketers have to start looking at social media as a branding tool, not just a traffic generation machine.

Storytelling takes center stage

Last June, Snapchat unveiled its ‘stories’ feature at Electric Daisy Carnival, Las Vegas. Stories is a unique way to create a crowdsourced narrative by using ephemeral pictures shared through Snapchat.

After the EDC experiment, Snapchat rolled out the feature to all its users, who’ve gone on to create millions of stories with billions of pictures since.

This, I believe, is the future of social media marketing.

Stories force marketers to focus on creating narratives, not just one-off posts. They demand greater investment and involvement, but they also reap greater benefits.

Stories are especially pertinent for event marketers who often have a plethora of user-generated content to create narratives with (as the Snapchat EDC story showed). Crowdsource pictures, throw in some captions, add in a short video, and suddenly, you have a string of anecdotes about your event and its attendees.

In the hands of a gifted marketer, the impact of such a story can be incredible.

Emphasis on “in-moment” marketing

The big difference between event and ‘normal’ marketing is that event marketing is fixated on a guest’s experience ‘in the moment’.

What this means is that event marketers need to engage guests while they are at the event, not two days later when they check into Facebook after nursing that post-event hangover.

And guess what your guests are doing while they are at your event? Yup, taking and sharing pictures with fellow attendees on Snapchat and Instagram.

This is why event marketers need to move away from ‘post-moment’ to ‘in-moment’ marketing.

Don’t merely collect pictures and post them to a Facebook album two days later. Instead, engage with guests via hashtags on Instagram, or contribute/curate a Snapchat event story. Your guests will love you for facilitating interactions.


The world of social media moves at a brisk pace. Old platforms die out, newer ones take their place.

If event marketers are to succeed, they must keep abreast of changes in the social media landscape, and alter their marketing strategies accordingly.


Jay is a writer for Snapcastr, a small startup that helps event planners showcase their live social media feeds in events.

When not writing, he reads (voraciously), bikes (passionately) and plays the guitar (inadequately).

You can read more of his writing at the Snapcastr blog.

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