In yesterday’s Facebook earnings call, a lot of concern has been raised about how teen usage on Facebook has dropped slightly. Said Facebook’s CFO:
“Our best analysis of youth engagement in the U.S. reveals that usage of Facebook among U.S. teens overall was stable,” Ebersman said, noting that adolescents’ tendency to fib about their age makes any analysis tricky. However, he added, “we did see a decrease in daily users specifically among younger teens.”
“Ebersman added that the “younger teens” finding was “of questionable statistical significance,” because Facebook’s youngest users don’t always accurately report their ages. And he maintained that the overwhelming majority U.S. teens still have Facebook accounts. (His exact phrasing—”We remain close to fully penetrated among teens in the U.S.”—probably did not come out quite the way he intended it to.)”
There has been plenty of anecdotal evidence that some teens are abandoning Facebook, turning instead to Vine, Instagram and Snapchat* instead. And Facebook Quitters are certainly something to worry about. But I don’t think there are that many of them. Facebook usage is still incredibly high.
* Mobile MAUs (monthly active users) grew 45% year-over-year to 874 million
* Mobile DAUS (daily active users) were 507 million on average for September 2013
* MAUs were 1.19 billion as of September 30, 2013 up 18% year-over-year
* DAUs were 728 million on average for September 2013 up 25% year-over-year
The MAU/DAU ratio for all of Facebook is 61% and for mobile is 58%, still industry leading numbers. It is an incredibly sticky service for most users, and engagement is an excellent predictor of retention.
Facebook should be more worried about the people (teens and younger) who never use Facebook at all, but instead turn to Snapchat, Instagram, Vine, Twitter or something else as their FIRST social network. It is the Facebook Nevers that should worry Facebook.
Other “home pages” on the internet have fallen from favor before, ranging from AOL to Yahoo to MySpace. In some instances the fall has been precipitous. But in many cases, the fall has been far more gradual. Current users have continued to use the site, although perhaps less frequently. But much faster than usage has dropped off, average age has gone up. For example, Yahoo’s reach among 55-65 year olds is higher than it is among 16-24 year olds:
That is because few new, young users are starting to use the site. The aging of Yahoo’s user base is what drove it’s acquisition of Tumblr.
Facebook will likely continue to have an enormous reach for a very long time. But unless Facebook finds a way to reverse this trend of Facebook Nevers, it will one day wake up with a user age profile that looks like Yahoos. That could be 10 years or more away. But it will happen because of Facebook Nevers, not because of Facebook quitters.
* A Lightspeed portfolio company.