Hopes for a One Billion Facebook users fading?

Filed as Editorial on June 20, 2011 2:44 am

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Epic Unfriend: Have 8 million Facebook users in US, Canada, and Europe pushed the deactivate button?

Facebook lost nearly 8 million active users in May this year and posted lower new user registrations in May, leading to speculations that the social networking giant’s target of reaching 1 billion users by February might take a bit longer.

Notwithstanding that Goldman partners put a stamp of approval on the $50 billion valuation for Facebook early this year, being the biggest and most active social networking site on the planet could provide strong support for appraisals of share prices should Facebook push through with an Initial Public Offering (IPO) in 2012.  That is if Facebook actually opens up more of its financial documents and trumps the vital signs of LinkedIn.

Apart from dreams of pouring over the Great Fire Wall of China like a tsunami and continuing to find new user growth in late adapter countries, there is the idea that Facebook’s ubiquitous presence through social media stream integration and comments on sites will continue to propel its growth in years to come.

Is the social media magic wearing off? Looking at Facebook de-activation and slower new user growth

Who needs a thousand or more friends anyway? Why the heck should I read someone or other’s link or watch their video — even if it’s LOLS or just plain insane?  Who cares about who’s flaming who in one group or page?  Why don’t I give a rat’s hind quarters about who beat me in Bejeweled Blitz or some other game that I didn’t even join?

If you’ve ever had these thoughts and moved your mouse over Facebook’s deactivate button or didn’t even think of logging on to your Facebook account, you are not alone.

In the United States, about six million users decided to end their Facebook life or at least their life in one Facebook account.  This sent the number of those using Facebook in the US falling to 149.4 at the end of May from 155.2 million at the start of May.

Following the US, 1.52 million users in Canada decided to end their relationships on Facebook  and this brought their numbers down to 16.6 million.  The United Kingdom, Norway and Russia all posted losses of more than 100,000.

The number of new Facebook users has also declined from 13.9 million in April to 11.8 million in May.  Typically, the number of new users logging on to Facebook had been pegged at 20 million a month and this is largely the basis for saying that at around 700 million users, Facebook would reach 1 billion users in roughly a year’s time.

Then again, this doesn’t consider Facebook’s growth in China — which is still the world’s largest country in terms of population.  The number of users has septupled from January 2011 to February 2011. At the beginning of January, China had some 100,000 users on Facebook, while at the beginning of February, that number had risen to about 700,000 users, according to SocialBakers.  Around May, however, the number of Chinese users dipped to 400,000 and is now currently climbing back up to 600,000.  Certainly this is far from the 600 million potential users in China — if the theory holds true that Facebook users in any country number about half of the actual population.

Then again, what would actually stifle Facebook’s growth in China would be the country’s internet censorship.

Facebook’s decline in early adopter countries has been noted and it was explained that it could simply be that the novelty has worn off.

Then again, there is a difference between those who sign up for sheer novelty and entrepreneurs who use social media sites like Facebook.

Facebook platform and social media stream integration

I’d guess that the figures on Facebook statistics is about a year old now and for the life of me, I can’t seem to find current data showing if the numbers have changed:

People on Facebook install 20 million applications every day. Every month, more than 250 million people engage with Facebook on external websites.  Since social plugins launched in April 2010, an average of 10,000 new websites integrate with Facebook every day.  More than 2.5 million websites have integrated with Facebook, including over 80 of comScore’s U.S. Top 100 websites and over half of comScore’s Global Top 100 websites.

Granting that the numbers are higher or at least haven’t dipped significantly, it would probably indicate a more stable basis for people to continue going to Facebook to access applications or logging on to their account to gain access to websites.

Of course, with new content and consistent use, Facebook’s effectiveness in delivering online ad impressions and buys continues to prop up its reputation as a kingpin in online advertising.

In 2010, Facebook ad revenues were estimated at $ 2 Billion and there are estimations that it could be double that in 2011.

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