Are you using Facebook as much as you used to?
According to the latest Edison Research 'Infinite Dial' report, many people are not, with the data showing that the platform has lost around 15 million active users in the US (or 6% of its active audience) since 2017.
Of course, that's not definitive. The Infinite Dial report is based on a survey of around 1,500 Americans, and Facebook itself reports having 242 million total monthly users within the North American region.
But the findings do align with other usage reports:
- eMarketer estimates that Facebook lost around 2.1 million users under the age of 25 in 2018, after losing some 2.8 million in the same category in 2017
- Facebook's daily active user count in Europe dropped for two consecutive quarters in the last year, before rising again in Q4 - the first time Facebook had seen such declines
- A Pew Research study published in September last year found that 42% of Facebook users had reduced their daily activity and engagement on the platform
- Research from Piper Jaffray, published in October last year, showed that Facebook has continued to lose popularity with teen users over time, as Instagram and Snapchat have continued to rise
Any way you look at it, the stats are not great. On a broader scale, of course, even a few million users is not likely to dent Facebook's momentum, with the platform still reporting some 2.3 billion users. But the trends don't appear to be going in Facebook's favor. Facebook does still own and operate Instagram, Messenger and WhatsApp, so its business, overall, is strong. It's flagship app, however, could be unseated as the key social platform of choice, eventually, if these usage shifts hold.
That's why Facebook has been exploring new options to re-ignite engagement, starting with its News Feed re-focus onto person-to-person engagement, and extending to its push of Facebook Stories, as it works to align with shifting audience habits. Thus far, based on the above-noted reports, those efforts are not working. So what does Facebook do? Should Facebook stop tinkering with its main platform in order to put more focus on its other offerings?
That, in some ways, appears to be what Facebook is doing, with CEO Mark Zuckerberg this week announcing a new privacy focus for its apps, which would put more emphasis on messaging. Some see this as a shift away from Facebook as we know it, where the News Feed will eventually be usurped by more enclosed interaction spaces, while others note that Facebook is not necessarily looking to de-emphasize its legacy systems, but more to expand its overall footprint by further boosting messaging in conjunction with feed engagement.
However you look at it, it does seem that Facebook may need to do something more drastic to address these declines. Again, it's not disastrous, there's no chance we'll see the end of Facebook as we know it any time soon.
But it is interesting to note the broader usage shifts, and to consider what these rising trends mean for the next phase of social media's evolution.