A recent report in The Guardian says that Facebook’s future is in peril as it’s bleeding users, but SocialBakers, the very source that the publication uses, begs to differ. So what’s the deal?
While Facebook plays its cards close to its chest, the latest number it released regarding users was when it it the 1 billion user milestone. That figure – the 1.1 billion that Mark Zuckerberg announced in October of last year – came six months ago.
The Guardian report is referencing Monthly Active Users (MAU) estimates, which it used SocialBakers data to do – however Social Bakers tells us this was a gross “misinterpretation of our data.” The Guardian reports that the U.S. visitors have declined by 4 percent or 6 million users, while it saw a decline of 4.5 percent and 1.4 million users in the U.K. The report further claims that it has lost 9 million monthly visitors in the U.S. in the past six months, while 2 million visitors have dropped off in the U.K.
This means that while 6 million visitors in the United States have fallen off the grid since last month, that doesn’t mean that 6 million users have deleted their accounts, stopped using Facebook altogether, or “switched off” of Facebook as The Guardian has us believing. It just means they don’t fit the definition of an MAU.
“The Monthly Active Users statistic indicates the number of people who have been active on their Facebook accounts during a 30-day period. Just because someone has been inactive for a time does not mean that they are no longer a user,” Social Baker’s spokesperson clarifies. “MAU’s are estimated reach statistics which are accessible through Facebook’s ad tools to advertisers and developers and were created mainly for advertising and marketing purposes. They are rough estimates and should not be used to determine Facebook traffic.”
To be frank, a drop in 6 million users could mean anything. It’s possible that Facebook could have cleaned up some of the fake accounts that plague the social network, which it’s did back in August of 2012 as well. Its quarterly earnings report earlier this year counted 76.3 million fake users.
But The Guardian, whether right or wrong, raises a point worth looking into. It’s not unfounded to argue that there’s a growing anti-Facebook sentiment and that it’s quite possible that people are turning to other social networks. It’s also worth noting that Facebook’s relationship with SocialBakers is tight-knit, so the analytics firm is obligated to defend the social network.
If you take a look at the Reddit comments based on the Guardian’s article, you’ll see plenty of Facebook criticisms and reports of Redditors saying they’ve closed their own accounts or stopping logging in.
Facebook has been going innumerable changes; many of which involve its mobile app. Even if Facebook is thriving and generating revenue for investors, with a projected 36 percent increase in revenue year-over-year, retaining old users and wooing new ones appears to be an ongoing challenge.