Facebook Was The One Network People Used Less In 2014
By Parmy Olson
February 6, 2015
There’s no question that Facebook is the world’s biggest social network and will probably continue to be for some time. But the way we use Facebook is changing: gradually, it’s becoming a far more passive hub for our online social interactions.
A new comprehensive survey shows that out of the eight biggest social networks, Facebook was the only one to see a decline in the rate of people actively using the site per month over 2014 — a pattern that was consistent in regions across the world — while others like Pinterest and Tumblr saw large jumps in activity.
While Pinterest saw activity increase 97% and Tumblr by 95%, Facebook was the only big network to experience a drop in active usage last year, by 9%, according to GlobalWebIndex (GWI), a research firm that interviews 170,000 internet users in 32 markets and claims to run the largest ongoing study into digital consumption to date.
The slide was most acute in Asia Pacific, where the rate of active Facebook users declined 12%, and social networks like WeChat and Qzone dominate, particularly in China.
Outside of China Facebook is still the leader in social networking with around 81% of adult internet users claiming to be members of the site. And many of them are still logging in regularly; more than half of Facebook’s active users were logging in more than once a day in 2014.
But Facebook has become more of a passive hub for underlying social connections than a place to actively share our thoughts. And with so many checking Facebook on their smartphones, they’ll often only check in for short periods anyway, leaving little time to do more than browse and maybe “like” a photo or two.
Around 40% of Facebook users said they had “browsed their newsfeed for updates without posting or commenting on anything” in the last month, according to the GWI survey.
Once again teenagers were the big demographic that often didn’t post anything in their Facebook network, and were less likely than others to carry out 17 of the 20 or so different Facebook behaviors tracked in the GWI survey. (That includes clicking a “like” button, commenting on a friend’s photo or video and messaging a friend.)
“It’s not that Facebook is being abandoned,” GWI’s head of trends Jason Mander wrote in the latest report. “Rather, it’s that people are using Facebook less intensively or actively than before.” The causes of this are varied and have been well documented already: the rise of Instagram means people fewer people upload photos to Facebook. The rise of messaging apps like WhatsApp and Kik means people are taking their conversations onto other platforms.
Another is simply the rise of social networking on our smartphones generally. On tiny screens and with limited time we’re more likely to swipe down to browse than type out an interesting comment. “This encourages much more passive forms of engagement where people are more likely to simply look at things rather than interact with them,” writes Mander.
That’s why Facebook’s revenues should remain strong: as long as people keep coming to “look at things” on Facebook, ads will get eyeballs too and the profits should keep rolling in.
Smaller platforms like Instagram, which saw a 47% rise in active usage, and LinkedIn (38%) saw healthy increases because people have broadly been opting for a wider range of niche networks, many of which they can connect to via Facebook.
When it comes to mobile, Facebook is still the most popular social app with 41% of adult internet users saying they regularly use the app. But Snapchat was the fastest growing social app in 2014, with active usage growing 57% and more than a third of 16-19 year olds claiming to use the app in the U.S., Britain, Ireland and Sweden.
Internet users of all ages are spending more time overall on social networks – an average 1.72 hours per day, up from 1.61 hours in 2012. Internet users now spend more than 6 hours a day online, with around 30% of that time spent on social networking.
“That’s important food-for-thought given how many commentators have been willing to proclaim that the social networking ‘bubble’ has burst and that the top networks are dying,” says Mander in the report. “Rather, we’re actually spending more time on networks now than in the earlier part of the decade.”