Stephen Logan

Trouble Brewing for Facebook as Audience Figures Slip

11th Aug 2011 Social Media, Facebook 2 minutes to read

Earlier this week it was announced that the dominant market share that Facebook enjoys within social media has dropped to a two year low. Whilst the 50.14% figure announced by Hitwise is certainly not a disaster, it is part of a growing list of concerns for the once imperious network.

Market share is a notoriously difficult figure to accurately gauge. A drop may happen for any number reasons and not necessarily because of a reduction in actual visitors. In fact, the drop in overall share is more likely to be caused by larger increases elsewhere, with sites like Twitter and YouTube gobbling up visitors due to coverage of major events (such as the hacking scandal). The introduction of Google+ certainly won’t have done much to help either.

So whilst Facebook may well have plateaued in the UK, there’s certainly nothing to suggest that they’re in freefall – even if market share has dropped by 4% in a month. Nonetheless, it’s not something that Zuckerberg and his team can take all too lightly. With new competitors emerging and existing ones strengthening, Facebook need to ensure that they remain relevant in a changeable industry.

Hacking Threats

What may concern them though is the threat of a massive hack on November 5th of this year. With Anonymous (or at least some of its members) supposedly planning to attack the site on Guy Fawkes’ night. Whilst this may be some form of hoax or posturing on the part of a few rogue hackers, it’s a threat that they have to take seriously. Could this scare off users, what would be the impact of sustained global downtime? Whilst they can prepare (fortunately they have a date to aim for), it’s going to be difficult to measure the impact until the day itself.

In terms of global reach, Facebook is still growing. This has been particularly notable in markets such as Brazil, India and Mexico. However, there have been some drop-offs, particularly in the United States. In June it was announced that the social network had lost 6 million users in the US alone. 2 million have since returned, but these kind of drops suggest that there is a definite ceiling on their potential growth.

Growing Threat from Google

Google+ is yet another headache for the market leader. Whilst it remains invite only, numbers have been limited to around 25million users. However, this is a social network that could really provide stiff competition in the months and years to come. In fact some are even suggesting that Plus could become the second largest network in the US by this time next year.

So a drop in market share, the potential for major hacks in the coming months, Google+ and major reductions in American users are all cause for concern. However, Facebook knows how to hit back. After integrating Skype, they have now developed Messenger; a service not too unlike their previous ‘Chat’ option, but a little more advanced. So it would be safe to say that the next few months will be well worth watching.

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