Facebook’s first decline in users was between December 2007 and January 2008 where they lost 400,000 British visitors. However it still remains the UK’s most popular social-networking site despite the drop in users from 8.9 million users in December 2007 to 8.5 million unique users at the end of January2008. Facebook’s nearest rival, MySpace, saw UK traffic drop 5% between December 2007 and January 2008. It had 5 million unique users in January 2008. Bebo also had decline of 2% month on month with 4.1 million users.
People are calling the drop in members for these networking sites, particularly with facebook as “facebook fatigue”. There are a number of reasons:
1. Security concerns
2. Amount of personal data people put on the site
3. Employers have banned staff from accessing the site at work.
4. Too much information when they log onto facebook.
5. Trivial information from their contacts
6. No longer niche
Facebook was originally niche – it targeted people based on membership of organisations – the universities. It was for the early adopters. However, now it is mass market and has lost its excitement. There have even been campaigns to get rid of friends. At the end of 2008 Burger King’s Whopper Sacrifice campaign asked users to sacrifice 10 friends on facebook in exchange for a free Whopper. Facebook soon caught onto this and cut short their campaign when By January this year 60,000 users deleted their friends for free burgers
So what is the future of these social networking sites?
The future is in niche online communities. These will be based on interests or lifestyles eg diamondlounge.com, solving problems or self help eg netmums.com. These network sites will be aimed towards business user needs to keep in touch with colleagues and contacts. The innovators and early adopters will be the first ones to take part in these niche online communities. They want to be part of something that no one else is. People like the exclusiveness and the feeling they belong. This will always far outweigh those networks where everyone and anybody can join.