Facebook and Personal Sharing Decline, Continued PC Decline, Blackberry’s Last Stand

Facebook and Personal Sharing Decline

Some interesting, yet not surprising, usage data on Facebook users has surfaced. According to the Information and then picked up by Bloomberg, Facebook users are sharing less personal information on the service YoY:

As of mid-2015, total sharing had declined by about 5.5% year over year while “original broadcast sharing” was down 21% year over year, the confidential data show. Original posts are personal in nature as opposed to popular media like links to news sites. Original broadcasts are the most critical kind of content on Facebook because they bring the most engagement. Think of when people announce engagements or babies; those posts always get the most comments and “likes.” The sharing problem was particularly acute with Facebook users under 30 years of age who were sharing much less than they were a year earlier compared with people over 30, according to the data.

Upon seeing this data and reflecting on your own usage of the service, I’d be willing to bet similar trends are occurring. While this data calls out those under 30, I have our own research that suggests a time decay in not just personal sharing but overall usage as well. Dating back to 2012, we had survey data that indicated usage of Facebook began to decline a few years after consumers on-boarded to the service. This gradual decline in usage showed up in early 2012 longitudinal research I accessed. At the time, all of Facebook’s statistics looked rosy because they were acquiring new users at such a fantastic rate and who were engaging heavily offsetting the more mature user usage decline. This was used as a doom sign for Facebook. However, acquiring Instagram then WhatsApp changed the narrative as Facebook proper usage was no longer the only metrics which mattered.

This new data is certainly not a doom situation for Facebook but for a company who wants to develop artificial intelligence and engage in data mining to leverage in advertising, continued drops in personal information will limit Facebook’s opportunity to mine information. The wild card in all of this is Facebook Messenger and WhatsApp, of course, as this messaging is generally an area consumer share quite a bit of personal information. WhatsApp is likely a wealth of personal sharing data but whether Messenger is as well is questionable. While Messenger has deep traction, the nature of the conversation may not be as intimate as primary messaging app like iMessage, Snapchat, text apps, etc.

Some quick data points: 39% of consumers in our panel admitting to using Facebook less overall than a year ago. 31% say they are concerned about their privacy on Facebook. To the topic at hand, 29% said they share less personal information on the service than they did last year as a whole. What is clear is the maturation of a Facebook user is impacting their overall usage and experience. More sharing of news or other people’s content and less sharing and even general usage among users longitudinally.

Facebook does need to make sure they are seeing personal data in some shape and form, whether on Facebook proper or another asset. Their overall pitch to advertisers is better targeting based on personal preferences. For that to work, they need to know our personal preferences based on what we share about ourselves. This will be crucial as they move to video since today, personal targeting via video ads is basically non-existent. This is the next algorithm to crack and it depends on how well the service knows us. As scary as that sounds, it can be quite useful. This is why solving how they can extract more personal information will be key as user trends signal new directions.

Global PC Decline

The PC market is still ugly. Gartner came out with a shipment decline of 9.6% for the quarter. Most data we can access was signaling 10-11% so we knew it was not going to be great.

I’ve discussed before the “600m PC 5 yrs or older currently in use” statistic and it is part of the culprit. One obvious reason is smartphones. However the real issue at hand, in my opinion, is the vast segment of the market never really used their PC much to begin with. At least, not for much that could not be replaced by another device. Obviously, if you are a desk worker, then the smartphone is not enough. However, for the vast majority of others, their smartphone is even more computer than they need. To put this particular point into perspective, from a recent study on the PC category we did, 50.4% of consumers who currently own a PC 5 years old or older have no plans to buy a new PC this year, citing “don’t see a need to buy a new one” as their main reason. This particular cohort represented 23% of our panel. A sizeable chunk of the PC market has an extremely outdated PC in terms of modern workflows yet sees no reason to upgrade.

What’s more, our data on consumer (not enterprise) refresh rates is suggesting a 6.5 yr replacement cycle. While, if we assume no abandonment (meaning every consumer or household with a PC buys a new one), the bottom of the annual consumer PC unit shipment is between 120-130m units. A steep decline from its peak of nearly 200m units in 2010 and 2011. For the record, I do not consider the zero abandonment assumption to be a safe one.

Blackberry’s Last Stand

Blackberry has long been the Canary in the coal mine. It has been obvious to most, except perhaps Blackberry, that there was simply no more room in the market for the companies hardware. This is a classic case of simply not understanding the market, believing their past success was built on a repeatable template without any major changes. They appear to be making a last stand with two new devices that will ultimately be their last hardware.

It is hard to watch, and there are other companies with similar unsustainable mobile strategies. HTC, Microsoft, LG, Sony, come to mind as companies that face to steep of battle to really justify the current strategy. Mobile industry economics are not in favor in many companies and I expect the hardware landscape to continue to change.

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Ben Bajarin

Ben Bajarin is a Principal Analyst and the head of primary research at Creative Strategies, Inc - An industry analysis, market intelligence and research firm located in Silicon Valley. His primary focus is consumer technology and market trend research and he is responsible for studying over 30 countries. Full Bio

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