Unpacked: Opinions on Facebook

Facebook is one of the few bright spots, earnings-wise, in the industry this year. It is becoming ever more clear Facebook will be the largest beneficiary of the global smartphone roll-out and that mobile advertising, like desktop ads, is turning out to be “winner take most” environment. That winner is Facebook.

As dominant as Facebook is, we still wanted to question our panel and see what kind of opinions and sentiments existed about the service. This is what we found:

– 38% get annoyed at the volume of ads and sponsored posts
– 38% said they use Facebook less today than when they first got on the service
– 31% said they were concerned about their privacy as it relates to Facebook
– 30% agreed the Facebook service is getting worse
– 22% consider Facebook to be invaluable to keep up with friends and family
– 21% said they feel Facebook is a waste of time
– 19% said they find themselves using Facebook more today than when they first joined
– 13% said they can’t imagine their lives without Facebook
– 6% have closed their account

While we remain optimistic still on Facebook’s growth, the dynamic I find most interesting is the patterns with their most mature users, those who have been on the service the longest. I’ve seen private studies with longitudinal research on Facebook users to suggest, the longer people are on the service, the less they use it. For years, Facebook’s increasing and steady average time spent by users has been driven by the massive amount of time new users spend on the service. Facebook is adding new users at such a rate the decline in usage time by their more mature users makes no material difference in this statistic. But, the question in my mind is, does this behavior of mature users signal what could someday be an issue for Facebook once they have acquired as many users as they are going to get? While possible, this is where Facebook’s family of apps come in. All Facebook cares about is that a Facebook property sucks up big chunks of your day in time spent. Facebook doesn’t care if you spend 3 minutes on Facebook, or 5 minutes on Instagram, or 30 minutes on Oculus, just so long as you’re spending time on something Facebook owns. They are putting themselves in place to be the go-to and default advertising platform for all mediums.

The implication here is Facebook must continue to either build new apps or new core experiences with their apps, and/or buy other apps where people are spending large amounts of time. This is why it makes sense for Twitter and Snapchat to join the Facebook family. Each service would add the value of incremental time to Facebook’s metrics and is another outlet for Facebook to place advertising inventory. This market is a winner take most, and the sooner Twitter and Snapchat realize that, the better. They belong in Facebook’s conglomerate.

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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

8 thoughts on “Unpacked: Opinions on Facebook”

  1. True, but I presume that a large portion of Twitter users value it as an anonymous outlet, or at least hidden from parents. I personally keep my Twitter accounts very separate from my Facebook.

    If Facebook bought Twitter, it is likely that I will end up deleting one or the other.

    1. I don’t think social networks (or anything, really), is a stance about the network’s owners (which are all them same, broadly).
      I think it’s about the community, specific features, and segmentation (same as in any featureless park, you’ve got the adults’ spot, the family with babies spot, the kids spot, the teen spot, mostly all the same spots, just random clustering of people).

      Snapchat is not about being anti-FB, it’s about being what your friends use, and use for supposedly ephemeral messages.

      I think Google is more desperate the FB to add destinations, so probably willing to pay more for Twitter.

      1. The way I see it, we still do not understand well how social networks should be segmented. I think you are suggesting that they should be segmented by age group or maybe “friend clusters”. This assumes however that a single person only belongs to a single “friend cluster”. What if, however, people actually are more Jekyl & Hyde? What if people have separate identities where they belong to different “friend clusters”, and they don’t actually want one cluster even knowing about the existence of the other. What if they want to keep their multiple identities completely separate.

        For example, what if you hated Donald Trump and you were making fun of him online? What if you knew that some of your kids parents were Trump supporters? What would you do if the wanted to be your friends on Facebook? The way I would handle this is to post anti-Trump stuff only on my Twitter account, and to post only politically neutral stuff (like photos of food or kids) on Facebook.

        Now how widespread is this need for multiple online identities? Well in Japan, young Twitter users have an average of 3 accounts to manage their multiple interests, communities and personalities. One survey I know of clearly suggested that a significant number of the youth want to keep anonymous identities online as an outlet for their darker sides.

        I have translated some of the results of the survey here. https://naofumi.castle104.com/how-twitter-is-used-in-japan/

        Also we have to realise that some societies will tend to impose a stricter social behaviour norm on their children than others. Not all societies allow you to be yourself, all the time. The need for multiple identities is real, and may be more real in the more traditional societies.

        Social networks merging into one dominant Facebook will not satisfy Jekyl & Hyde.

        1. Agreed: the social web is random (one app/site sticks were other fail) and schizophrenic (people use not even one pseudonym, but several). Maybe my park analogy wasn’t apt, more clothes, or behaviour/language.

          I’m fairly relativist as far as social norms are concerned. Teens will do whatever is at the limit and, above all, different from the previous generation. Not sure were that limit and norm are has much impact on the mechanism itself: It maybe be the ankle, the knee, the cleavage, the underwear that is taboo, teens and progressives will show just that. Probably also works with smoking/alcohol/various drugs, religious and political opinions… maybe even brands ^^

          FB could formally allow multiple personalities. And they could add other chat platform (Snapchat) but keep them separate on the surface: keep enriching their social graph behind the scenes, and push their ads, but present a separate UI and user pool.

  2. “This market is a winner take most, and the sooner Twitter and Snapchat
    realize that, the better. They belong in Facebook’s conglomerate.”

    So, your prescription is for the smaller rebel players to give up, sell out to dark side, and allow themselves to be bought by the Empire. I find myself wondering just who paid you to reach that conclusion.

    Maybe, just maybe, the smaller players value their independence and figure they might manage to survive on the leftovers while they wait for the Empire to collapse. Maybe, just maybe, the smaller players might not want to subscribe to your grim meathook future prescription.

    1. The harsh reality is their investors will demand their returns. Look at what is happening to Twitter big picture. We can argue this is a stock that maybe never should have gone public given they were largely ex-growth when they did.

      If these companies don’t have investors expecting 20x returns and liquidity then I’d agree with your assessment and they can have a fine business. However, they will be pushed to liquidity and I find it harder to believe that can happen in the public market given these dynamics.

      And obviously I’m not paid to write anything publicly 🙂

    2. The other thing Facebook could do is offer their ad inventory to these smaller sites like Google does with adwords but I’m not sure that alone changes their financial fortunes.

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