About Face(book)?

According to a recent report by Inside Facebook, the number of Facebook accounts in the United States dropped by almost 6 million during the month of May. Given that it’s highly unlikely that an active Facebook user would just up and decide to disable their account overnight (especially, in the absence of any privacy snafu), was the writing on the proverbial wall before the startling news broke? Weekly tracking data from Experian Simmons suggests the “unexpected” drop in Facebook accounts was predictable based upon the recent downward trend in both the number of monthly visitors to Facebook.com and average visits per month among visitors.

Facebook accounts in the United States dropped by almost 6 million during the month of May.

The data actually indicates that the Facebook fatigue and the subsequent risk of account closures facing the social networking giant can be traced back to February 2011. Specifically, Experian Simmons reports that the number of visitors to Facebook.com hit a three year peak during the week of February 7, 2011 when an estimated 97.3 million U.S. adults visited the site at least once during the previous 30 days. However, immediately thereafter monthly visitors declined week after week, shedding 6.8 million visitors between February 7 and May 2 by which point only 90.5 million adults had visited the site during the previous month. This drop marked the first sustained decline in monthly Facebook.com visitors since Experian Simmons began tracking visitors to the site over three years ago and should have set off alarm bells.

Facebook Adult VisitsFurthermore, after several years of steady increases, the heaviest users of Facebook, defined as those who visited the site 16 or more times per month, began to trail off right around the same time. Specifically, heavy visitors comprised 57% of monthly Facebook.com visitors as of January 24, 2011, the highest point observed in over three years. However, since then the share of visitors who stop by Facebook.com 16 or more times a month dropped to 53% as of May 2. Further evidence of Facebook fatigue—and another potential warning sign—comes from an observed decline in the average number of monthly site visits among all Facebook users. In the Fall of 2010, average monthly visit count regularly hit a three year peak of 12.0. Since that time though, the number of visits paid to Facebook.com per month by the average visitor dropped to 11.6 as of the week of May 2, 2011. In fact, average monthly visits to the site are now the lowest levels observed in almost a year.

Does this mark the end of the road of Facebook’s monumental growth phase?

Facebook Adult Burnout

Does this mark the end of the road of Facebook’s monumental growth phase? It could if user interest in the site continues to wane. If anything, this trend makes it clear that Facebook is due for a little “poke” to boost their visitors.

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