Facebook’s engagement is shrinking — as Americans spend less and less time on the social media network. The future isn’t bright for Facebook either, and they are expected to see a declining trend in US time spent on the platform, a study reveals.
A report published by eMarketer showed that the average time spent on the social media giant declined by 3 minutes in 2018 and is expected to continue decreasing until 2021 — where it is predicted to plateau.
This year, US Adult Facebook users will spend only 38 minutes per day browsing the site, which is down by two minutes in the company’s previous forecast. Furthermore, they expect that by 2020, the average time spent will drop more to 37 minutes per day.
“Facebook’s continued loss of younger adult users, along with its focus on downranking clickbait posts and videos in favor of those that create ‘time well spent,’ resulted in less daily time spent on the platform in 2018 than we had previously expected,” eMarketer principal analyst Debra Aho Williamson said. “Less time spent on Facebook translates into fewer chances for marketers to reach the network’s users.”
For spectators, a few minutes drop in time spending among American may not be significant, but it is a very alarming trend for Facebook whose business depends mainly on advertising and ad revenues. Analysts argue that since the US is one of Facebook’s most lucrative market, a decline in the engagement level in the tech giant’s flagship service may force advertisers to use other advertising platforms.
Nonetheless, the future of Facebook may depend on Instagram soon as engagement levels are on an increasing trend. Average daily time on the Facebook-owned platform will reach 27 minutes this year among US adult users. And time spent will increase by 1 minute every year through 2021, according to the researchers.
“Features like Stories, influencer content and video are all contributing to more engagement and a slow but steady uptick in time spent on Instagram,” Williamson said.
App “family metrics” will be published; no more Facebook-only numbers
According to some people knowledgeable on the matter, it could also be the reason for Facebook’s decision to stop communicating their engagement data to the public. Besides, having bad data is also similar to having no business at all.
Instead, according to Facebook, it will start publishing collective metrics for its “family” of apps, which includes Facebook, Instagram, and WhatsApp.
“Over time, we expect family metrics will play the primary role in how we talk about our company, and we will eventually phase out Facebook-only community metrics,” Facebook’s CFO Dave Wehner said during the call.
Facebook is probably doing this to project growth even if the growth of Facebook (the social media platform) is on the decline and the growth of other platforms such as Instagram may compensate for the bad numbers in Facebook’s arsenal.
Controversy after controversy
Analysts and researchers posit that Facebook’s shrinking numbers are affected by a series of controversies over security that the company has faced in the last few years. The tech giant has been repeatedly slammed for their failure to protect their users’ privacy in different occasions.
Only recently, a study published by Consumer Reports suggests that there are a lot of Facebook users who can’t turn off the facial recognition feature and cannot prevent the social media network from using the technology to identify their faces in the platform. According to CR, they have found out that eight out of the 31 test accounts that they used in the study does not have an option to turn off facial recognition. As an implication, it is possible that there are more users out there who don’t have the same ability even if the researchers have noted that they are still unsure whether there are others.
Furthermore, the growing number of fake news and fake accounts used for political motives also dissuades users from using Facebook as often as they used to. Even if the company has renewed its commitment to end the swath of fake news and fake profiles on its platform, the problem persist and the perception of people over the way the company is handling the problem does not change.