Recently, there have been a number of stories written concerning Facebook’s dwindling user numbers. In spite of a record-breaking 7.8 million new users being added in May, Facebook saw a significant drop in membership in June, with only roughly 320,000 new members joining the platform. Is this a sign that Facebook’s popularity is waning? The answer to the Mac and Cheese question is a deliberate “No.” The “Participation Plateau” is a better term to characterize the number of people who use the service. It is inevitable that the plateau effect will emerge over time as consumers’ interests and lifestyles change. Users in their 40s, 50s, and 60s frequently express frustration that they simply do not have enough time to spend on Facebook, which can be explained by the plateau.
It’s critical to understand the makeup of Facebook’s user base in order to understand why the site has reached a plateau. Users in their twenties and thirties were the first to sign up for the social networking site. According to internal Facebook statistics, this category continues to account for approximately 50% of all Facebook users. When you look at usage among those between the ages of 18 and 44, you will see that this larger cohort accounts for approximately 75% of all users.
A study by PEW Internet on the use of social media growth by Generation Y came to the conclusion that by 2020, Generation Y will have “grown out” of much of what they were doing on social networks. So in 10 years, they’ll have gone from being young adults to middle-aged adults. At that point, the pressures of family and work will have gotten a lot more intense in their lives. People who have more things to do in their lives have less time for social media, which is obvious from simple logic.
The use of social media, notably Facebook, is classified into two categories: reading and posting. Users under the age of 25 are more likely than other age groups to read their news feeds, submit their status updates, and comment on their friends’ status updates. They have the time to browse and explore, as well as share events and news with their friends and followers on social media. Users’ interests vary as they grow older and have more demanding lives as a result of the substitution of full-time work and family responsibilities for schooling. This also explains why the number of retired users is rapidly expanding—freed from the demands of their previous jobs, they have more time available for social media interests.
Even though the number of new users increased by 96 percent between May and June of 2010, it is still possible to use Facebook. And Facebook, like other social media platforms, isn’t going away anytime soon. It is possible that Facebook has reached a saturation point in terms of the number of interested people who have computer access and that this type of plateau is a regular part of any business cycle. Despite the fact that the number of people who use Facebook may change, new people keep signing up.
Consequently, if you’ve been on the fence about whether or not you should participate in social media, don’t let the recent decline in participation scare you away from taking advantage of this highly effective marketing method: it’s still an effective way to stay in touch with customers and prospects, as well as a fun social outlet for your employees!