Facebook’s numbers are out for the first quarter of 2015 and they are impressive. It’s an opportunity to take a look at what Facebook is doing right.
Teens don’t matter. Facebook doesn’t have to be the “cool” place. First, it’s not that the teens are abandoning Facebook, they are still there. They use it differently and maybe less often than other social networks but they are still there. Second, there are two interesting steps that Facebook took with teens once they realized that they are not “committed” to Facebook once their older relatives started using this site. First, they gave them an alternative, Instagram. Second, they realized that it’s not crucial for them to spend all their time on Facebook, but it is enough to check in every once in a while. This dual approach is smart and seems to be working.
Time spent on Facebook properties on mobile is amazing. I liked Ben Thompson’s take on the significance of this dominance: “It is increasingly clear that it is Facebook — not iOS or Android — that is the most important mobile platform. Facebook’s family of apps account for 24% of time spent on mobile, and the main Facebook app is responsible for 75% of that. Mobile apps thrive on “found time” — moments in line, or on the bus, or even on the couch where people simply want to look at something interesting — and Facebook consistently delivers for an increasing number of users all over the world. More impressively, Facebook isn’t just increasing its user base: its existing users continue to deepen their engagement with the app over time.” The emphasis on the time spend on Facebook’s main app is mine. 75% of the time spend on mobile is time spent checking updates on the newsfeed is an incredible engagement stat.
The “you have to have it” aspect of Facebook is extremely compelling. It’s getting to the point that “everyone” is there. 1.44 billion users are on Facebook every month. Of those, 210 million are in the USA, where 71% of online American adults use Facebook. I wasn’t surprised, though deeply impressed, when I found out that 87% of 18-29 year olds use Facebook. But I was surprised to learn that 56% of adults 65 and over use Facebook in the US. That’s incredible penetration and is almost at the point where having a Facebook account is almost as important as getting an email address. You have to have one. As an aside, Ben Thompson observes that this requirement is even more dominant in Asia, where Facebook serves also as a business network, connecting professionals as well as friends. Mr Thompson also says that with such overwhelming usage stats, it will be very difficult, if at all possible, for other companies to replicate Facebook’s social graph.
Recent newsfeed tweaks include more posts from friends. This is important and is a smart move on Facebook’s end, one that analysts say doesn’t bode well for media outlets but does improve the user experience. In the end, Facebook is social utility with the goal of connecting users with their friends. Let’s face it, users don’t come to Facebook to interact with brands, they come to see what their friends are up to and to update their friends on what’s new with them. Occasionally, they will look at a news item a friend has shared, but it’s mostly about what friends themselves are sharing.
When users realized that the newsfeed was manipulated in a way that wasn’t showing all their friends everything they were sharing and wasn’t showing them everything from their friends, there was a lot of disappointment. Facebook going back to preferring friends’ posts over promotional posts is wise. There will still be ads, many ads, but less updates from brands and content providers. I also like that Facebook is
trying to give more control back to users on who they see most updates from. For example, users have more options to “rank” friends and choose who to get notifications from. Today I also saw, for the first time, Facebook asking me a bit more about my relationship with a friend. Both of these mini-products allow users to “fine tune” their relationships so that they always get updates from the people who are really important to them.
Facebook continues to grow, adapt, change their main product, and create (and buy!) apps that cover their weak spots. It’s interesting that they can continue to balance and grow user engagement with a profitable ad network and a growing number of advertisers. Users continue to visit and engage despite the increasing amount of ads. That may be the most impressive stat of all.