I’m fortunate enough that the tools of my job happen to be things I personally enjoy. Instagram has become my main network of choice, I check twitter first and last thing every day (and several times in between) and recently I’ve even (finally) come to appreciate Google+.
Facebook however I work with because I have to. Though I understand the business need, it’s a network I personally dislike.
I could write a whole post on the reasons why, but the point is you’d think I’d welcome any stats showing Facebook on the decline. In fact, I’m going to argue that the latest figures suggesting that this is happening should be treated with caution.
Those figures come from Comscore, showing that Facebook’s US user base has declined 4.8% in six months to 158 million.
So is Facebook finally heading slowly the way of MySpace? Hardly. Here is why:
In his critique (which I agree with) of Facebook’s mission to promote ‘authentic identity’, analyst and blogger Wagner James Au pointed out that Facebook probably has a ceiling of just over 50% market penetration of a country’s online population, and it has reached that point for the US, the UK and Canada
I think that is right…when you are talking about the major industrialised nations. In the Philippines for instance, Facebook has a whopping 92.9% penetration of the Internet population, and in the developing world that online population is only going to grow.
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The chart above above from the World Bank (via Google) shows that the % of the population on the Internet in the major English speaking countries has increased over the past few years. But when you look at the BRICS countries (and I added The Philippines in for good measure) those numbers in some cases more than doubled in the second part of the last decade.
As Facebook is well aware, the home market of the US is no longer pre-eminent online. Especially given the evidence that social media users in emerging markets are highly engaged, this is still a huge growth opportunity.
Secondly this story seems to do the rounds every Summer. Almost exactly a year ago, news came out of a so-called ‘big drop’ in user numbers. As I wrote at the time, when even the Murdoch owned The Sun starts talking about users ‘abandoning’ the service, you know the idea has common currency.
Guess what? Facebook came out of last Summer just fine, and whatever the subsequent problems, managed to IPO. Look out for another wave of Facebook in decline posts in June 2013.
Social media e-commerce referrals from Facebook drop 88% to 59%
Here is one recent Facebook stat that brands should be aware of. Facebook’s share of e-commerce referrals from social media has dropped from 88% to 59% – that is significant.
According to Monetate, which came out with the report, this is directly connected to the growth in non PC mobile and tablet traffic, and also the rise of Pinterest, whose share of referral traffic has gone up from 0.68% in Q1 2011, to 26% in Q1 2012. No wonder Facebook is looking at a ‘want’ button.
Never mind though. Just as he did with Instagram to plug a mobile gap, I’m sure Mark Zuckerberg can dip into his pocket and find another $1 billion to buy Pinterest or someone similar.