Calm Down. Facebook Isn't Dying.

If you work in social media, you've been hearing variations on a theme for the past week: Facebook is in trouble! It's lost young users! It's getting crushed by upstart social networks! Eighty percent of its users will disappear in the next few years!

But as was the case with Mark Twain, reports of Facebook's death are an exaggeration:

  • That Princeton report seriously misses the mark. Last week, two Princeton PhD students circulated a report predicting Facebook would lose 80% of its users by 2017. They used epidemiological models to predict that, like MySpace before it, both the rise and fall of Facebook would look like the spread of a virus. But the research wasn’t peer-reviewed, and wasn’t published in any journal, and you can perhaps see why. Facebook itself did a pretty good job of pointing out the limitations of the researchers’ methodology. And I see another problem with this study: The MySpace ‘virus’ hardly mutated in all the years it infected the world, but the Facebook ‘virus’ mutates frequently. One of Facebook’s greatest strengths is its practice of regularly adding new features and functionality to its site; this both ensures it infects new users and also makes sure existing users don’t become immune to its charms.
  • Facebook still dominates young people’s social usage. We hear over and over that Facebook is losing its edge among young users. And while other social networks are growing quickly among teens, Facebook has admitted its overall teen usage is flat, and that usage by younger teens has tailed off. But ignore the breathless industry hyperbole for a moment and focus on the actual data: comScore reports that 89% of 18- to 24-year-olds used Facebook in November 2013. Eighty-nine percent! Its adoption rate among this audience could hardly be any higher. And according to comScore, no other social site claims more than 52% of this segment. So sure, Facebook must work hard to keep young users engaged. But the fact remains, Facebook claims far more young users than any other social network — indeed, probably more than any other media property on earth.

In fact, from a user perspective, Facebook is in rude health. Its number of monthly users is still growing — up to 1.19 billion in Q3 2013. More importantly, more and more of those users are coming every single day: In Q3 2013, its daily user count was 61% of its monthly user count, up from 55% in Q2 2012. (This ratio is the first thing I look for when Facebook releases earnings; it’s a great indicator of the site’s health.)

I’ve been strongly critical of Facebook’s failure to help marketers succeed, and that criticism still stands. But at this moment Facebook has relatively few problems with its user base. The site’s not going anywhere for a while.

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