Crazy right? Who in their right mind would make a silly claim about a network that has close to 900 million active users with average usage times close to 20 minutes per day? The fact is, no one is bullet proof. Ask Yahoo, MySpace or ….., all major networks that ruled heavily at one time and all which fell from grace to other up and comers.
I’ve felt a growing sense that Facebook might have already peaked and is currently beginning to slide. The only missing piece to truly escalate that slide is an alternative to do better what Facebook fails at. I’m sure it’s just a matter of time.
That being said, here are the 5 reasons I think Facebook is on the decline:
1. All The Numbers Are Starting To Say So. According to numbers cited on The Inquistir, in April Facebook witnessed 158 million US unique visitors, only 5% higher than 2011 numbers. While 5% growth may not seem horrendous, it’s a drastically big decline from April 2011 when Facebook witnessed 24% growth and far worse than April 2010 when the social network had an 89% growth rate. Facebook points out that users are now spending up to six hours per month on the social network, up by 16% during the same 2011 period, however that rate of increase is also slowing, jumping by only 23% from last year compared to 57% in 2010. Throw in the disappointing stock showing, and you have quite a few numbers pointing to some trouble.
2. Their Apps Are Terrible. How a network as large as Facebook can take such a lacksidaisical approach to their mobile app development is mind boggling to me. While I have not experienced their mobile apps outside of Apple devices, their iPhone and iPad apps are horrendous. Terribly slow, they crash frequently, and often times they are simply unusable. Now, it’s clearly obvious why this has been the case…Facebook doesn’t make any money with their mobile apps. They want users on the actual website. Fair enough. But ignoring a mobile audience for so long is a death sentence. Especially with the sheer growth of mobile penetration across the world. They may figure out how to monetize mobile, but clearly they are opening up the door for someone else to come along and get the mobile social experience right.
3. Their Website Is And Has Been A Mess. While I actually like the new Timeline layout, it has received mostly negative backlash. But more importantly, I’ve just never found the Facebook site to be all that intuitive when it comes to managing those you are connected with. Sure you can create lists of folks, and have features available to you, but the execution just seems terribly over convoluted. If I can’t figure out how to do certain things quickly and easily, then I can assure you folks who aren’t as seasoned on a computer will be even more. The problem here is that generally people have short attention spans, and are easily distracted. If Facebook doesn’t do a better job at delivering a world class user experience, they again are opening up the door to someone else to do so and lose users.
4. The Ad Platform Doesn’t Deliver. I’ve used Facebook Ads a ton. In some cases, they can be a useful tool to build reach and connect with the right folks. The targeting options are fantastic, but that’s it. The bottom line is that Facebook Ads fail to deliver true business results for most organizations and the exodus is beginning (See General Motors?). They are also very hard to measure beyond Facebook’s own home grown stats, Facebook Insights, which are pretty terrible in their own right. If they can’t deliver true value with their ad products, there goes their revenue stream.
5. They Do Not Care About Users. Have you ever heard anyone ever say something positive about Facebook when it comes to customer service, feedback consideration or anything when it comes to community interaction? Does anyone have any sense that they could feasibly influence a feature or improvement for the platform? Nope. Yes, managing 950 million users is a daunting task, but I’ve never really understood why Facebook never considered a world class community set up like Dell’s IdeaStorm or My Starbucks Idea. In addition to crowd sourcing great ideas, the good will that comes from platforms like this is priceless.
Regardless of these or any other reasons, it’s not like Facebook is going anywhere anytime soon. But given these and a number of any other missteps, there’s no reason to think that Facebook can one day be yesterday’s news. It’s happened numerous times in the past, and likely to happen again. What say you?
Chris Howell says
WOW! I agree with all your points. I’ve always been skeptical of the “Facebook success story”. Everyone who wants an account now has one. I don’t see how FB can grow much more. They continue to be way overvalued at $27 and change. Especially when a company that actually makes something like AMD is trading at $5.89! Remember how MySpace was the hot thing? And it only took something like 24 months for Google to replace Yahoo as the search darling. I like Facebook and it’s impact cannot be denied but it’s best days are behind it.
I have to agree that they neglect their users, then again, so does google. When I needed help because they didn’t approve my google adsense account for my website and said an email was sent, I didn’t receive any email. I tried to find someone to contact but no luck. I went to ask the community which advised me to create a new account instead.
I have to say though that ads have been working well for me, according to comscore, it works too http://www.technewsworld.com/story/75372.html
Abel Pardo says
I agree with you, Jason. I like their new timeline too, but I heard just bad things about it.
Mobile traffic is increasing and in Europe it can be 20%. They should answer this question: where is the future?
Christy Tennant Krispin says
I’m glad to know I’m not the only one who thinks this. Like you, I have had underwhelming results from Facebook ads. At most, they seem to raise awareness, if not any real revenue. I’ve also been hugely turned off by all of the revisions to the platform. Just when I get comfortable with how things work, they change it, and I have hated the new timeline. I have many complaints about Facebook.
Still, TODAY, at least, Facebook remains an important part of the marketing machine. In fact, I just posted a short video on why I think small businesses need a Facebook page. (At least, this week they do.)
That said, my relationship is love/hate, minute-by-minute.
Jason, I totally agree. Just heard about the pay for play option for business pages to be able to spread the word about our biz to all who have “Liked” our biz page. I get it that FB needs to generate revenue, but not sure that’s the way to do it? I’m surprised someone hasn’t developed a simple social app for Apple/Android phone platform similar to Google search engine that’s clean, easy to understand and use, maybe it’s already here with Instagram, Pintrest or ?? I use FB a ton to see what friends and family are doing, but as far as business is concerned I’m going to focus on Twitter where there seems to be much more traction on actually reaching folks with similar biz interests and it’s paid off on making collaborations actually happen. Can’t say that for FB.
Thank you for reassuring me I’m not the only one who can’t understand how on earth Facebook got to be this popular.
Consistently bad interfaces, no user support and apps & add-ons (even official ones, like feed imports) that never work or just stop working without explanation.
For me, using Facebook is like a love-hate relationship (er… without any love).
Indeed. Facebook’s day’s are severely limited. The problem is; and I guess the key to their ongoing success.. They buy or bully anyone who starts to make anything worthwhile. Of the tens of companies Facebook has bought, how many have actually had their product idea incorporated into Facebook? I can’t even name one to be honest.
Ramsay from Blog Tyrant says
The new pay to promote feature in the Pages, mixed with edge rank, will be the signal for many companies to stop putting dollars in to growing on Facebook. They just don’t get the free reach anymore.
Nice write up.
I think even Mark Zuckerberg knew this was coming. It was like Facebook went IPO like literally AS it peaked-out! LOL
I wouldn’t say that Facebook will completely die off, but its glory days definitely over. I keep hearing more and more from friends and relatives that they have slowed down their usage of Facebook from the past, some even have shut down their accounts entirely saying there is just too much worthless info floating around and people are frustrated with the new timeline format.
Mobile marketing is the new big area for growth, just like you said Jason. You hit the nail on the head with that. I can’t wait to see what this new Pandora’s Box has in store for us!
Brad Shorr says
Jason, I would go along with everything you say. To me, #5 is the biggest problem. The other issues are correctable, but I don’t see how Facebook can turn things around with its users. There’s a lot of bad blood, a lot of disenchantment. When the next shiny object rolls around, I think FB users will be eager to leave.
I have a love-hate relationship with the new timeline design.
I love it for personal accounts, so you can really see the story they are telling. But, as a website that depends on social interaction, I hate that all the comments left on my “business” facebook page are hidden to the side in a little box.
Discussions on my facebook page have taken a nose-dive and there is no longer a sense of “community” there.
On the plus side, comments on individual website pages have increased!
Love it. Hate it.
I think G+ will be the next big thing. I’m going to hosting my first “hang-out” (live video conferencing that is streamed live and recorded to youtube for posterity) in a few weeks – sounds like fun!
Sarah Payne says
I’ve never been a fan of Facebook. I finally decided I should get an account, but it wasn’t long after when they disabled my account because they thought I wasn’t a real person. Really nice.
Just when I had gotten used to the website (and it’s ugly, I must say), they changed the layout. I can’t figure it out now. When I look at a webpage, I don’t want to have to look down, right, up, left, down… you get the idea. It makes no sense to me. It’s not supposed to be an eye exercise.
Fortunately, there’s Google+, and as soon as I signed up and explored its features, I loved it. Sorry, Facebook, you just don’t compare. I’ve never liked being “friends” with total strangers. But I don’t like FB pages either—they seem too impersonal.
Myspace used to be the big thing, but look at it now. I wouldn’t be surprised if the same thing happened with Facebook.
Jason C says
One of the things I find frustrating about Facebook is that the data you generate, your own wall posts, links, likes, etc. have no database features. You can’t search your own posts. You can’t set them to expire. Posts generated by apps do not go away if you remove the app unless you manually delete them- one by one. You can’t categorize posts with tags or labels. It’s overly difficult to choose your specific audience for a post.
The controls to set what appears on your news stream are primitive or create a filter. Filtering functions used to be one top of the feed where it made sense, now they’re on the side and only the options used frequently appear as options.
Facebook should be capable to offering controls that give some data control to users who want it and need it. It shouldn’t be dumbed down to the lowest common denominator.
Thats right their iOS app is nothing but trash!
Nothing is forever, it is just cirle of life. What goes up must come down.
Jeremiah Ozment says
I am not ready to believe the trade facts and figures, as all the surveys have different results. It might be on the decline according to some sources, but it is one of the most poplar medias, we seriously cannot ignore the fact.
I agree that the Apps are terrible, 90% of them are, and they are like running after you like crazies!
Agree to all above!
And can also add that on the both latest Androids the Facebook app crashes more frequently than any other app. So not iOS problem – but just poor mobile app development.
Djonatha Geremias says
What caught my attention was the fact that Facebook does not maintain relationships with users. We, Social Media professionals, often work hard to maintain and build relationships with our users, seeking thereby to succeed, while Facebook is (why not) the most successful company in the world without talking to customers, just analyzing behaviors, numbers, statistics and selling ads.
Darin Spears says
I think this could be true, there some undisputed rulers of the internet world in the past and they all have ruled and then gone!
But look at Google, it is one contradictory example, it has been there, ruling since last few years and there is no immediate threat to them, I believe same is with Facebook they peaking and will keep on peaking.. There is not alternative to them!
Stan Faryna says
I totally get the frustration with Facebook. While I don’t see a Facebook killer on the horizon, maybe I don’t see it because my vision and scope of sight are inadequate. On the other hand, I also understand why some of the things that Facebook gets wrong are wrong: cost, capability, time, etc. And I don’t think Facebook’s apparent neglect means that Facebook is not concerned. People, in fact, is Facebook’s business. That’s just how they do what they do and it’s proven unbelievable profitable.
Stan Faryna says
Djonatha Geremias’ comment is worth repeating:
“What caught my attention was the fact that Facebook does not maintain relationships with users. We, Social Media professionals, often work hard to maintain and build relationships with our users, seeking thereby to succeed, while Facebook is (why not) the most successful company in the world without talking to customers, just analyzing behaviors, numbers, statistics and selling ads.”
An excellent observation worthy of further consideration of what Facebook does right and wrong.
Djonatha Geremias says
Thank you, Stan.
When I shared this post in my Facebook Timeline, my professor said: “Someday, Facebook will end, just because the formula will wear out: People are more concerned to show themselves, than enjoying (liking) other people. This is already happening, and this sucks!”
My other friend said: People create a technology. They see a problem in this technology and they discuss about this technology, until someone creates another technology. In a cycle alive.
Eric Suesz says
Great stuff, as always, Jason.
I’m a community manager by trade, so I understand how difficult it must be for Facebook to manage their users. Massive numbers. Kind of unprecedented, really. Just thinking about the issues they deal with makes me cut them some slack. The larger successes like Facebook, Twitter, and Google all aim to be “utilities” and part of being a utility is not being open to criticism in a community-as-customer-service kind of way. Instead, they rely on the product to do all of the work and probably rely on usage statistics to drive decisions about how they improve the product over customer feedback. They’ve all been pretty good at that so far, but at some point they should probably start showing themselves as customer-service oriented. Would really love to hear a more detailed exposition post from you about this type of detail if you have the time in the coming months. Do they get a pass on this because they aren’t charging people to use their service? Can they be compared to other “utilities” in this respect? Are utilities like this ultimately immune from customer-service issues until competitors are in the mix? Not sure if this is something you’d want to write about, but I’d certainly perk up and be ready for that kind of conversation.
In any case, I love your content! Very valuable.
Spot on article, especially the last point about them not caring about users, everyone in Myspace had the same feeling the last few years before their demise. And ref to ads, something isn’t working at all. I have a client who paid $10,000 over a 5 month period, now it appears we have 93,000 FAKE profiles. Something is super fishy in that department. Again today I have new fans with profiles only a few hours old, 6 friends, and 900 page likes in the first day.
Stan Faryna says
I continue to reflect on the question as I’m sure you do.
1. Growth – can Facebook afford to continue to grow as rapidly as it has in past years. Is that a smart goal? The infrastructure load has got to be busting at the seams.
On the other hand, is there anyone out there that can afford to provide Facebook’s inelegant features at a lower operation cost. Just ramping up to Facebook service level (however inadequate) is going to cost some hundreds of BILLIONs. That would be equivalent to 12 years of campaign costs of four US Presidential Elections in say a five year period.
Stan Faryna says
Where was I?
2. Facebook apps
a. Facebook Mobile apps
(1) Apple apps can easily suck because of the Apple development ecosystem. Thanks Steve…
(2) Screen real estate and processor power is problematic on a mobile phone.
(3) Do you really want ads constantly being pushed to your mobile phone? Join Stan Faryna and 5,689,481 others who are playing the Marvel Avengers Alliance game. [grin]
b. I remember when third parties tried to make interesting apps for Facebook. Most of the time they failed. Then the timeline update killed the value of previous investments…
Third Party app development is the way to go – but Facebook doesn’t want to miss any opportunities. Considering that their business model needs a business model, I suppose they have every reason to be reluctant about third party apps.
c. Facebook discourages third parties from effectively using FB for self-promotion and marketing – that includes you. They want you to pay Facebook to do that for you. Inasmuch as they stick to this petty fiefdom model, is there a need for killer apps?
Another two cents.
Stan Faryna says
What do you think about Facebook’s new policy to pay for your own reach?