Is Facebook still the king of the castle in the world of social media? Well with a global audience of 698 million in April this year, I suppose you’d think it was. However, after two months of lower than normal growth, there’s more than a little concern that the social media giant’s influence is on the wane. Increasing numbers of users are either deleting their accounts, or not checking in daily as they always used to. So, what’s going on? Is this just a blip in an otherwise smooth ride to world social domination, or are there actually concrete signs that the party is over for Facebook?
The figures of 698 million worldwide users would make you think this is just a storm in a teacup, especially when you factor in to the equation that Facebook amassed a further 5 million new users in March alone. However, that’s significantly less than the social media giant has normally gathered. Moreover, that’s 2 months in a row that the numbers have been down. In April this year Facebook added 13.9 million new users and in May 11.8. Now you may see those figures as healthy, but at this time last year Facebook was adding on average 20 million new account users each month. Not only are a large numbers of users failing to log on regularly, but many are cancelling their accounts and deleting their profiles completely. In the UK, 100,000 quit the application in April, and in the US almost 6 million users have done the same. So, is there a problem with social networking in general, or is it just a bit of a hiccup?
Social media analyst, Craig McGill, of PR firm, Contently Managed explained why he thinks there really is a problem:
“It may be that we’re now seeing students graduate and deleting their accounts so that employers can’t see what they’ve been up to. On top of that, many people get fed-up with Facebook’s constant changes and extra things being added on, feeling as if their privacy is being eroded. Facebook’s ‘places’ and the new ‘face-tagging’ don’t help there. But the odds are that a lot of people are just starting to get fed-up with it. The decrease was always going to happen.”
“Friends Reunited, MySpace, and Bebo: nothing in the digital era has been permanent. Even Google, which many think of as king of online, replaced other search engines such as Netscape and Alta Vista. Nothing is permanent in cyberspace. The real danger is that people see others are leaving Facebook and decide to leave as well. That sort of rolling stone movement is hard to stop.”
By contrast Twitter seems to be going from strength to strength. It’s doubled in size since 2008, and now has 123 million users worldwide. However, even this platform isn’t completely immune from social media fatigue. According to ComScore, Twitter lost 6.3 million users in March this year. So why is Twitter in relatively good health whilst Facebook is struggling? Well, according to Jennifer Jones, a researcher at Creative Futures Research Centre in West Scotland, the answer’s quite simple:
“Twitter is taking over from Facebook in terms of new sign-ups because it’s a bit more fluid, adaptable and multifunctional. You don’t need to wrap your entire identity around it (like you do in a Facebook profile). It will get more new users because you are not committing too much.”
So are we really falling out of love with Facebook? Will the decline continue inexorably? In fact will Facebook become the next MySpace as some experts predict? Not according to McGill. He still believes Facebook will ride out this particular storm. As far as he’s concerned, small businesses hold the key to Facebook’s future health:
“I think the latest fall may be a temporary blip, rather than a trend. For small businesses, having a presence on Facebook can be one of the most cost-effective ways to market themselves to new customers and to communicate and interact with existing customers.”