Emerging markets are set to dominate the focus of Facebook after Inside Facebook revealed that the world’s largest social network lost users in mature Western markets last month, resulting in its lowest back-to-back growth figures for a year.
May’s growth of 11.8 million and April’s 13.9 million new users represent the first time Facebook has attracted less than 2o million new users for consecutive months.
The Inside Facebook post goes into more detail on the main losses, which took place in some key, established markets:
Most prominently, the United States lost nearly 6 million users, falling from 155.2 million at the start of May to 149.4 million at the end of it. This is the first time the country has lost users in the past year.
Canada also fell significantly, by 1.52 million down to 16.6 million, although it has been fluctuating around that number for the past year.
Meanwhile, the United Kingdom, Norway and Russia all posted losses of more than 100,000.
The article says that, these markets aside, Facebook’s growth was normal as usual with a number of developing markets – where Facebook has been available and popular for less time – leading the way.
Asia is responsible for four members of the top 10 fastest growing markets (with Facebook’s top 25 countries) as India (6.7%), Indonesia (4.0%), Philippines (5.4%) and Thailand (7.1%) all posted strong growth March-June. In fact, Thailand – which just passed 10 million users last week – was the third fastest grower, as it has consistently been over the last 12-18 months.
While some US-based bloggers have proclaimed the lack of growth as ‘the beginning of the end of Facebook’, it is clear that Asia and other developing markets are key to Facebook’s future growth, as has been said many times before.
Facebook is doing its part to help improve accessibility to the internet, and thus open up potential new users, by focusing on mobile through the purchase of Snaptu and deals with operators like Bharti in India.
Of course, one notorious country could raise Facebook’s captive market by hundreds of millions, China.
But as Inside Facebook notes, and has been discussed here and strongly rumoured, entry to China would “compromise its reputation in the US and many other countries around the world” and then there is the awkward issue of China itself and how it would actually manage such a move.
It’s worth noting that, in spite of the losses, Facebook does continue to rule the world, as All Facebook explains and Facebook itself echoed with an official response to the Inside Facebook article published in the FT.
“From time to time, we see stories about Facebook losing users in some regions. Some of these reports use data extracted from our advertising tool, which provides broad estimates on the reach of Facebook ads and isn’t designed to be a source for tracking the overall growth of Facebook. We are very pleased with our growth and with the way people are engaged with Facebook. More than 50 per cent of our active users log on to Facebook in any given day.”