Facebook still dominates social landscape


GlobalWebIndex’s latest data shows that Facebook retains its position as the top social network, but that some smaller networks – as well as messaging apps – are rising quickly in popularity. Tom Smith, the company’s founder, exclusively talks us through some of their key findings.

We’ve all seen the recent headlines about Facebook. Supposedly, users are deserting the platform in their droves. It is “dead and buried” among teens. It’s no longer the social hub it used to be.

The reality is quite different, as our latest research makes abundantly clear. Yes, Facebook has seen a decline in the number of people using it each month. And yes, the figures for teens did fall throughout 2013. But the extent of the overall decrease in active user numbers (-3% between Q2 and Q4) has been drastically over-exaggerated in some reports.

Some perspective is essential here: China aside, Facebook remains the number one social network in all parts of the world. It’s ingrained inside the fabric of the internet thanks to like buttons, single sign-ons etc and tops the list for both account ownership and active usage (83% of global internet users are members, with 49% using it actively). Compared to the other leading networks, its members are the most likely to visit more than once a day and to carry out a wide range of activities. Not bad for a social network that’s been around as long as Facebook.

Certainly, the site does have a number of challenges to face. When we look at the age profile of its members, it’s the 25-34s – rather than the much-coveted 16-24 group – who form the biggest share of active users, suggesting that its age profile is shifting upwards. And while it lost users in the last six months of 2013, a number of other platforms saw rises in their estimated audience size. This was led by Instagram (+23%) and Reddit (+13%), with Pinterest, Quora, Tumblr and Google+ all recording increases of 6%.

But the biggest trend to watch is the huge growth seen for mobile messaging apps. While Facebook Messenger saw a global increase of 13% – and remains the most popular social tool competing in this space – there were much more dramatic rises is estimated user numbers for WhatsApp (+35%), Snapchat (+54%) and, most significantly, WeChat (+379%).

For all of these messenger apps, usage is highest among the 16-24s – indicating that the biggest challenge for Facebook and other major networks will be to maintain the interest of its increasingly mobile-first audiences within a social media landscape that is more diverse than ever.

Note: all figures are the global average, excluding China. GlobalWebIndex conducts quarterly research across 32 markets, representing nearly 90% of the global internet audience. Download a free summary of the new GWI Social report.