With Facebook sign ups on the decline in the U.S. and Canada for two consecutive months many of us are wondering, “Is this the beginning of the end of Facebook? What does this mean for marketers?”
The U.S. lost nearly 6 million users while Canada lost about 1.5 million and this is the first loss of users the network has experienced in over a year according to a report by Inside Facebook. Although we will have to wait and see what happens in the coming months, this slow growth doesn’t mean the social giant is going away any time soon. Even if its growth comes to a complete halt, Facebook still boasts almost 700 million users and marketers shouldn’t forget about it just yet. However, this may be the very beginning of a declining trend.
Why has their growth slowed?
When Facebook became available to all colleges it was the cool place to connect with other students and we willingly (even eagerly) submitted all of our data to Zuckerberg and his minions so that we could have access to this exclusive new social network. Were we too trusting back then?
Today, a big majority of people don’t trust Facebook. 47% of users feel explicitly concerned about the social network, 38% are ambivalent and 15% are not concerned (according to AllFacebook.com). It seems as though every other day Facebook is in the news in regards to user privacy. Most recently it added a feature called, ‘tagging suggestions‘ which uses facial recognition software to identify people in photos in an effort to make tagging large albums easier but has simultaneously raised some privacy concerns. Perhaps less users are signing up because of privacy and trust issues.
We believe the beginnings of this mistrust may have arose once Facebook started implementing advertisements. To quote Sean Parker in The Social Network, “You don’t want to ruin it with ads because ads aren’t cool.” Although just a movie, it raises the good point that people hate advertisements and when you are using user information to help companies target people for marketing purposes, it may irk them even more. They already serve up ads based on your status updates and wall posts and this trend will likely continue to get progressively more invasive when they begin to implement real-time ad serving based on user actions such as these.
Facebook even attempts to trick users into giving up information such as phone numbers, imploring you to do so to keep your account safe. You can edit your privacy settings to determine who can see your phone number but in entering your number, you are submitting yet another piece of data to Facebook for it to use however it likes.
Will this declining trend continue?
As we stated previously, there is no concrete evidence to suggest this. In fact Facebook is still growing in other countries. However, Apple may contribute to this declining trend in its decision to implement Twitter into their upcoming operating system (iOS 5) and not Facebook. Since 2007 there have been over 108 million iPhones sold worldwide. On top of this 91% of smartphone owners access the internet for the purpose of socializing. Could this mean more people will begin using Twitter because it is more easily accessed? Will this huge market of iPhone owners now use Facebook less for this reason? It seems that only time will tell.