Has Facebook Peaked?

16Jun11

I read with amusement this article on Slate entitled “Has Facebook Peaked?” It’s the same theme that a ton of media outlets have been running ever since Facebook announced that growth was slowing and the number of active users in America actually declined by 6 million last month. (An active user is defined as one who checks in just once a month.)

Now I’m not going to be the one who tries to predict the rise or fall of Facebook. And I’ll let the social media pundits fight it out as to what this means in the grand scheme of things. But what I found interesting was something else – something in the raw numbers: Facebook had 155 million active users at the start of May and 149 million by the end of the month.

Since there are about 300 million people in the U.S., that means that half of America is either not on Facebook or doesn’t check in even monthly.

As marketers, and especially the marketers I know in the Bay Area, we tend to look at Facebook as if everyone is on it. But clearly, not everyone is. Yes, it’s a good place to find a big chunk of people, but marketers who look at Facebook as the end-all be-all are shortsighted at best. Facebook is a medium – just like direct mail, radio and banners pulled behind airplanes. Every business should take a long hard look at their marketing objectives and decide whether each specific medium (and combinations of media) will help meet those objectives.

Will Facebook likely be a part of many businesses’ plans? Probably. But Facebook should no more be a given in your media plan than bus shelters would be. It all depends on who you’re trying to reach.

Because remember, half of America isn’t on Facebook at all.

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