Facebook fatigue or just uninventive news content?

I meant to write a post in response to this Decline In Users Hints At ‘Facebook Fatigue’ article from Sky News, published on Yahoo on June 14th, sooner but I was on holiday. I had no data connection,  so I did some real world things like being taken for my stag do (no doubt pictures soon to appear on Facebook) and taking the little fella to the beach, instead of having my face stuffed in my mobile.

The point I wanted to raise about this article, and similar knee-jerk ‘news’ content that gets spewed out, is that sections of the press seem to be constantly looking for an anti-Facebook story. Don’t get me wrong, Facebook doesn’t need me sticking up for it, and there are plenty of negative points that you could raise about them. But if you’re going to do this effectively, at least get the calculator out and apply some forethought before you start predicting the beginning of the end for the world’s leading social networking site.

The article is based on the fact that Facebook recently lost 100,000 UK accounts. This equates to only 0.3% of the 30m UK accounts in existance. I doubt that this minor drop off is keeping Mr Zuckerberg awake at night. I’m sure instead he will be thinking about the fact that, according to Checkfacebook.com, their 30m users equate to 67% of UK internet users. Also remember that this is account numbers we’re talking about. The 0.3% will be dead wood, accounts that are not being used. The other 99.7% of UK accounts are using Facebook as their main platform to share content they have created themselves and content they come across online.

Here are some other Facebook facts that indicate that the world is some way from suffering from a severe case of ‘Facebook fatigue’:

  • Facebook has over 500 million active (and active is the key word here) users worldwide, Facebook.com
  • 30 billion pieces of content are shared through Facebook each month, Facebook.com
  • 1 out of every 6 pages views in the UK are attributed to Facebook – twice the number of Google, Experian Hitwise

There will be a saturation point at which growth slows to a stop, but they have prolonged their life span by embedding themselves on near enough every website with like/share buttons – 250 million people engage with Facebook every month on external websites. They’ll be ok for a while yet. With this article, could it be that Sky and Mr Murdoch were trying to avert people’s attention from the fact that he had to sell ‘social networking fall from grace case study’ MySpace for 10% of what he paid for it this week?

Facebook will continue to grow in 2011 and I personally think that their next step will be into the online voucher market, to counter the proposed merger between online coupon provider Groupon and location-based social networking site Foursquare. I also think they will look to improve their photo and video upload service within the next year, as the existing interface leaves a lot to be desired.

Have you found yourself using Facebook less recently, or do you even use it at all? Add comments below or tweet to @OnlineAStevens.


7 thoughts on “Facebook fatigue or just uninventive news content?

  1. Agree that 100k is meaningless but one of the tracking services (Nielsen) recorded a fall of 4.8m in US users alone – I’d consider that pretty significant, even though it was made up in later months. It’s not about the numbers though it’s about the pattern: there’s not enough data to say it’s even close to over, but decline and fall always starts with the end of growth and it looks to me like Facebook is starting to reach that saturation phase in the more developed markets. I agree it has years ahead and may yet reinvent itself sufficiently frequently and successfully to sustain many challenges. But, this is the first sign of anything other than rampant growth.

    I agree that the EE (as he shall henceforth be known) has suffered some jabs in the press over MySpace but I wouldn’t say that any of them have connected well enough to deliver a bloody nose. However that’s not to say he doesn’t wish he could create/buy/operate something like Facebook – I hope for all our sakes that will always be beyond his grasp though.

    1. Did the tracking services comment on page impressions that FB is serving? Would be interesting to see whether the drop in account numbers also affected the traffic figures? I wonder how much this account number flex impacts on actual visits to Facebook.com?

      If we were writing this a week or two ago, we’d be discussing whether or Google+ will bring Facebook down. But judging from the bits and pieces I’ve read, that doesn’t look particularly likely.

  2. Two things: Firstly of the five services that track Facebook, all bar one have shown a significant drop in users at some point this year. The trend remains one of growth and I’m not saying this shows the end of Facebook, nor even the beginning of the end. But I do believe it could be an indicator of the beginning of the beginning of the end – the inevitable slowing in growth that precedes the decline and fall.

    However embedded Facebook may get I do not believe its position will ever be unassailable. This is the internet: things change, trends come and go, and there will always be something newer, shinier and better around the corner.

    Secondly with regards to MySpace, selling it for 10% of its worth is just gravy for Murdoch: he recouped most of the purchase price almost overnight with an ad deal with Google back in 2006: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/business/5254642.stm. I’m not Murdoch’s biggest fan but I believe the MySpace acquisition was a much better piece of business than it has been painted to be.

    1. Hi Tom,
      Thanks for your response. I’d be interested to see what constitutes a significant drop in users – 100K doesn’t do it for me. The point I was trying to make with this post is that growth will slow and stop at some point, it has too. There is, however big it may be, a finite market of potential and existing Facebook users. Slowing in growth however does not always mean decline and fall. For organisations that survive this process, they reinvent themselves and enter into, or create, new markets. I didn’t mean to say FB is unassailable, just that in my opinion, we’re still quite far from the beginning of the beginning of the end, and further still form the beginning of the end. The beginning of the beginning of the beginning of the end however, may be just round the corner…

      Fair point re MySpace – you don’t get to the position of Evil Emperor without losing a buck here and making two back somewhere else. That was lazy blogging on my part, although you must admit he suffered a mildly bloodied nose through the negative press associated with the whole MySpace affair. Again, I doubt Mr M is too bothered about that though.

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