Is Facebook on the decline, or are we just witnessing a tectonic shift for the blue-chip social platform?

I found out about the WhatsApp acquisition the morning I sat down to write this post, and the numbers speak for themselves. If anyone has doubts about Facebook’s current success, I have three words: nineteen billion dollars—the sum that Facebook spent to purchase this mobile communication powerhouse (16 billion in stock and cash, plus another three billion in restricted stock). And this follows Facebook’s acquisition of Instagram and Little Eye Labs. Companies with those kinds of funds just don’t come along every day.

But what about the future? Will Facebook remain the dominant force in social media that it has been in recent years?

Simply put, current trends point to tough times ahead. Young users are ditching this old ship, new user flow is slowing down, and small advertisers feel cheated out of their money. Against this backdrop, a recent study by Princeton University (to which Facebook responded by taking a classic beat-‘em-at-their-own-game shot at Princeton) claims that by 2017 Facebook will lose its user base, as a sort of epidemic will lay waste to the social media giant.

Why the decreasing interest in Facebook? The list of potential grievances makes it hard to tell which is to blame. Is it boring content? Bad pictures of food, kids, babies, and dogs? Perhaps annoyance at watching single friends gawking at pics of semi-friends of semi-friends?

Add to all this the sense that the main reason for which Facebook was founded—either keeping in touch with your friends or getting to know new ones, depending on who you ask—is getting lost in the ongoing flood of likes, and you get a bleak picture of the social media trailblazer’s future.

In short, the hurdles facing Facebook are significant. But, as we’ll see, it is changing its approach to better match its consumers.

Adapting to a Changing World

Against these challenges, Facebook’s key strength is its ability to adapt to trends in the way users access information. Today, 48% of those who use Facebook access it only via their mobile devices. As far as they’re concerned, Facebook is mobile. It exists on their phones, in their hands, anywhere and everywhere—and all day long.

If there was any doubt that Mark Zuckerberg and co. have realized the power of mobile, it was recently announced that 53% of Facebook’s revenues came from mobile advertising in last year’s fourth quarter. The combination of addicted users—those for whom Facebook is a way of life—and publishers who understand the power of this platform suggests that Facebook will stay with us, maybe even making mobile its primary domain.

Unparalleled Targeted Advertising

The other key to Facebook’s future lies in the precision of its targeted approach to advertising. Facebook gathers massive amounts of data on its users and then puts this information to use, allowing it to offer advertisers an unparalleled opportunity to target extremely specific demographics.

For instance, do you have a shop for baby products? Want to advertise only to mothers in your area between ages 27 and 32—and only those who like children’s brands and buy diapers at the Walgreen’s near your house at least twice a week? Facebook is at your service.

Facebook’s nearly endless (and slightly disturbing) capabilities for targeting ads and content are what will retain advertisers. That’s exactly why I wouldn’t count Facebook out of the Internet’s future.

True, the fact that advertisers use Facebook doesn’t mean that consumers will. But because the world’s big advertisers spend so much money on Facebook—and because Facebook maintains a powerful presence in other companies’ advertising campaigns on TV, the Internet, radio, and billboards—traffic will continue to flow. Our lives will continue to play out on Facebook, and 45-second videos will continue to elicit small smiles and nostalgia for the days when we used to know our friends in real life—and not just via a screen full of pixels.

Where do you think Facebook is headed?

This post was contributed to The Conduit Mobile Blog by guest blogger Ariel Kedem. Ariel is the Head of Digital at IMN Israel and co-founder of SoFo Global, the world first Instagram food fair. A foodie through and through, Ariel is happy to talk for hours about anything related to mobile or social, or his opinion on the best restaurants in the Silicon Wadi (TLV).

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