Deciphering Facebook’s One Billion Member Mark

David Amerland
David Amerland owner/founder,

Posted on October 6th 2012

Deciphering Facebook’s One Billion Member Mark

There was a time when Facebook was synonymous with social media, when it was the only credible competitor Google had and when it seemed that its growth would be, well, unstoppable. That time has now passed.

If that statement sounds strange on the day that Facebook, quietly, announces it’s passed the one billion members mark it’s because of that announcement. Let me explain. Facebook has taken a beating of late. Its IPO was disastrous, its customer service reputation is in tatters and, it seems from the supposed leaked private messages debacle, even its very image is suffering.

It badly needs a win and in terms of winning nothing makes a statement bolder than size. When it comes to social networks Facebook is big. So big as a matter of fact that if it was a country its population would be 3.1 times bigger than the USA’s and 12.2 times that of Germany’s. As a matter of fact its population would be 1.33 times that of Europe’s with only India and China being larger than it by a fraction.

While that is an achievement for a company that’s just eight years old the superlatives have to stop here because what really counts in social media is not size but quality. Having gone past the point where fan numbers and Likes were sufficient to impress we are now at the stage of social business where we need to have some real ROI. And that can only be supplied by engagement.

From ads that fail to perform to moments where content is pushed without authorization Facebook has patently failed to engage its audience in a way which generates real cash. The reason why lies deep in the company’s psychosynthesis. Facebook, as its tagline, says “… helps you connect and share with the people in your life,” and I will be the first to admit that it does that brilliantly well, in a manner which generates stickiness for the site and virality in terms of attracting others. But here’s the problem: Facebook has succeeded so well in being the world’s favorite hangout place that it cannot be anything else.

Having got its huge membership base by convincing us to connect to friends and family it now finds that we resist when it asks us to become the Facebook equivalent of Amway reps charged with selling products to our closest contacts.

As a matter of fact that resistance is such that over the course of the last twelve months Facebook membership barely moved in Europe and Australia and fell in the United States, areas which most companies aim to market to.

The bulk of the Facebook rise which took the company past the one billion members mark came from Central America, the Middle East and Africa. While this has some obvious long term advantages when it comes to reaching an audience based in those countries at a low cost, in the short term it is of questionable marketing value.

The conundrum Facebook faces is that its growth model is now out of step with the profit requirements being placed upon it by its shareholders. How it will actually handle this may well determine the company’s fate.

David Amerland

David Amerland


David Amerland is the author of seven best-selling books including "Google Semantic Search: Search Engine Optimization (SEO) Techniques That Gets Your Company More Traffic, Increases Brand Impact and Amplifies Your Online Presence" and "Google+ Hangouts for Business: How to use Google+ Hangouts to Improve Brand Impact, Build Business and Communicate in Real-Time."

He helps multi-national clients and start-ups to organize their SEO and Social Media strategies. He is a business journalist, author and international speaker. He blogs about social media and search engine optimization, writes for a number of prominent websites including Forbes, and advises a handful of corporations on their social media crisis management techniques.

His books on SEO and Social Media demystify the complexity of the subjects they cover for readers around the world providing an accessible blueprint to better understand and take advantage of the opportunities offered by the connected economy. Follow him on @DavidAmerland. or find him on G+

See Full Profile >


Greg Trujillo
Posted on November 4th 2012 at 6:38AM

I really think facebook is on its way out. The IPO was just the investors trying to trick the general public, and for some reason it worked. 

Also please start adding the G+ button on your blogs, id like to share them but you dont have a share button for G+.

David Amerland
Posted on November 4th 2012 at 8:32AM

Greg, you are right on both counts. Facebook is struggling to find a commercial reason for itself to exist and even its social connectivity role is now coming under question. I'd love to have a G+ button here, I think it's something Social media Today developers have on their list,