John Lynch

The 'key' demographic 18-35 are leaving social media?

Not wanting to cut a tall poppy down and add to the one way traffic of bad news on facebook but whats clear is that the site is losing its early adapters, the 18-35 year old demographic. In fact its losing 13-45 year old demographic in its home market which could be a barometer that the early promise of social is failing consumers and they are ready for the next installment whatever that is.

Why do I think so? Well its noting personal as I am still a fan, however Social Bakers have just released their Socially Devoted: Q4 Results and i went to have a look. Interesting report, but as interesting are the following slides on the macro outlook for facebook. Let me take you through the key graphs.

My attention was first roused when I saw the latest pronounced dip in January. FB went from 982 to 972million in that January period. Incidentally it never hit 1Billion users according to Social Bakers hitting a peak at 982Million on Jan 12th (no mean feat of course). Although Bloomberg’s GlobalWebIndex data from Q4 also shows just over 1 billion Facebook account holders globally, falling in line with Facebook’s own estimated monthly user figures. The global figure now is 927million and apparently trending down.

world wide facebook figs are falling
The arguement goes that there is still a lit of steamleft with Asia only on 4.99%. But taking a closer look at this and you see that the three regional population powerhouses China, India and Indonesia are stuttering.

In China it mas not many more than 70Million, where China's own version of facebook Sina's Weibo (the facebook twitter hybrid) boasts 264.1 million users and Tencent's Qzone has 286.3 million, this in a market of 520 million users. Facebook is all but banned and its service is intermittent. There are also a global brand issues with complying with censorship laws that prevent it competting on a level playing field. Remember Google attempt at running a free search engine in China?

In india there has been a plateau in growth since the start of January with a fall this week, with those aged 25-35 years seemingly leaving. And Indonesia is showing almost a 3% drop with 18-14year olds leaving and surprisingly many aged 55+. 

facebook penetration by continent

The real troubling indicators are in established markets. With the US losing 2.29% and the UK almost 4% of its audience over the last 3 months alone, and many high 'average revenue per user' countries such as France and Germany flat lining. 

big falls in facebook in US market

Average revenues per user (ARPU) for the U.S. and Canada in the quarter were $4.08, compared to $1.71 in Europe, $0.69 in Asia and only $0.56 in the rest of the world. 

But its who is leaving that as a media planner makes interesting reading. The 'key' demographic 18-35 are dropping out for whatever reason. Is this just facebook, or is it social media generally? 

so who is leaving facebook

Its the same in the UK (big drops 25-34). The big question is trend, is it up or down. Is the drop just a sign that people generally are facebooked out or are those that are left more engaged? Mobile is helping apparently with increased engagement as defined by Mr. Zuckerberg who said the company is both reaching more people and keeping them more engaged on the service and making more money from each minute people spend there.

The only good news is that the cost of advertising on facebook is dropping. For the US market Social bakers has dropped the average CPC you should expect to pay from a high on $1.13 to $0.75 last week. This combined with the deeper demographic details does push the cost down of advertising on facebook.

 But what exactly does this mean for media buyers? It could simply mean that the early adopters, the decision makers, the consumers that make up the audiences that advertisers want to reach are slowly becoming uninterested in Facebook. It could mean that because the audience remaining is of lesser value it stands to reason that less competition from advertisers would drive the CPC and CPM down. But then again it's worth bearing in mind that figuring Facebook user data from outside of Facebook itself is a dark art and cant be completely accurate., a different opinion greatly appreciated...

The bigger question is whether the facebook signs are a signal that the core demographic is suffering social media fatigue? Its worth considering before you push all your chips onto the social square. Thoughts? 


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John Lynch Digital Ministry John Lynch
Company: Digital Ministry
Position: Editor
Involved in the digital media and Marketing industry for many years, through working at the Economist Group (uk), Universal McCanns, Zivo, emitch, OneDigital, IBM (client side), Agency.com & now TBWA NY Now in Bath, UK working as a consultant

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