Facebook users hop, skip, or jump? [TUPdate]

Dan Ness, Principal Analyst, MetaFacts, December 6, 2018

The share of online Americans using any of Facebook’s sites has dropped in the last year. The % of online adults using Facebook, Instagram, or WhatsApp, as well as any of these three, is lower than one year prior. This is based on the 2018 wave of Technology User Profile (TUP), a survey of technology users now in its 36th year.

Three in four online adults (76%) report having used Facebook in the prior 30 days, down from 84% in the prior year.

When Facebook acquired Instagram, it looked like a solid move to give site-hopping users an alternate venue to connect and share, while still staying within the Facebook family. However, as the advertisements ramped up and other sites attracted interest, users became less active or left. Between 2015 and 2017, Instagram’s expansion appeared to be on track to reach at least half of online adults before 2020. However, use has shrunk from a peak 42% level in 2017 to the present 38%.

We looked at the overlap of users of any of the three sites – Facebook, Instagram, or WhatsApp – and that share has also decreased, although not as strongly. In 2017, the share of adult Americans using any of the three was 87%, and now in 2018, that share has dropped to 82%.

Looking ahead

Fickle consumers continue to express how they choose to spend their time online and offline. Although Facebook has taken many steps to weave its way into everyday experiences, users continue to explore alternatives. I’m reminded of the rises and falls we’ve seen in sites from Google+, MySpace, AOL to CompuServe, and Prodigy, as network effects or following the herd entices large groups of users to move on from the market leaders. While I’m not calling this dip the beginning of another end, it is a cautionary note that Facebook has additional work ahead of them. Also, user defection isn’t the only issue facing Facebook. Advertisers and organizations reliant on Facebook can speed up any downdraft as they review any shifts in their own key numbers and consider other options.

About TUPdates

The analysis in this TUPdate is based on results drawn from the most-recent wave of TUP (Technology User Profile), the 2018 edition which is TUP’s 36th continuous wave.

TUPdates feature analysis of current or essential technology topics. The research results showcase the TUP/Technology User Profile study, MetaFacts’ survey of a representative sample of online adults profiling the full market’s use of technology products and services. The current wave of TUP is TUP/Technology User Profile 2020, which is TUP’s 38th annual. TUPdates may also include results from previous waves of TUP.

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