A recent blog post claiming that Facebook’s user numbers in the U.S. and U.K. have started falling has stirred up a lot of buzz and controversy on the blogosphere.
While Facebook has been reporting continued and steady growth, the blog post from Inside Facebook, a blog that has been monitoring the growth of Facebook since the early days of the social network, has reported the reverse. The post in question claims that though the total number of Facebook users has been growing, and was around 687 million users in the beginning of June, there has been a definite drop in the number of users in the U.S. and Canada.
Growth has been achieved by acquiring new users mainly from countries where audiences started using Facebook much later. The Philippines, India and Indonesia are among them.
In the U.S.A, the number of users reportedly dropped from 155.2 million in the beginning of May, to 149.4 million at the end of the month. Similarly, the number of users in Canada has supposedly fallen from about 18.1 million to 16.6 million during the same period.
Other European countries such as the United Kingdom, Norway and Russia have reported smaller drops of about 100,000 users in this period.
On a global level, Facebook acquired 13.9 million new users in April 2011 and 11.8 million new users in May 2011. Both these figures are lower than the average over the previous twelve months.
While factors such as seasonal changes, college graduation and others may result in temporarily lower growth rates, it does not usually occur in two consecutive months.
Unique visitor to Facebook in the United States. Source: DoubleClick Ad Planner
The potential decline of Facebook has already prompted a spate of posts being written about life and marketing after Facebook. While this might be an unnecessary exaggeration created by bored bloggers, it has not stopped some advertisers from worrying and Facebook themselves have felt compelled to issue a formal statement.
Facebook’s official response has been, “From time to time, we see stories about Facebook losing users in some regions… We are very pleased with our growth and with the way people are engaged with Facebook. More than 50% of our active users log on to Facebook in any given day.”
Monitoring sites comScore and Nielsen have reported a growth in Facebook usage. comScore reported that the average amount of time spent on Facebook has also grown from 21 minutes in December 2009 to 25 minutes in December 2010.
Maybe it is too soon to definitely say whether or not Facebook continues to grow or is already on the downswing. One thing is for certain, the social network is here to stay and with 700 million users, it is not going anywhere soon!