A Slower December for Facebook, Third Party Measurement Services Show

While Facebook appears to have grown by more than 36 million new users around the world in January, according to the data we track in our Inside Facebook Gold premium service, that was not nearly the case in December. The company gained significantly fewer users in the last month of last year versus earlier in the year, although there’s the usual considerable variation depending on which analytics service you look at.

Other factors such as students being away from school on holiday also may have influenced the numbers. While the site is maintaining the growth trend of the last few months, it isn’t matching the enormous gains it saw in early summer.

Here’s what we see. Note that most third-party analytics companies take around a month to report; we’ll be covering January’s numbers from them by early March.

You can see the November third-party data here.

Compete

Beating the peak it showed of 133.5 million monthly US unique visitors in October, Facebook was up to 134.1 million in December  — the most Compete has shown for the social network to date. This represents a rebound from a slight drop to 132.7 millionin November. Meanwhile, among its closest rivals, MySpace fell further from 51.9 million to 47.1 million and Twitter stayed about flat at around 26.4 million uniques.

ComScore

Along the same lines — albeit with a baseline difference of around 20 million monthly uniques — comScore showed Facebook growing from 151.7 million users in November to 153.9 million in December in the US. Worldwide, Facebook went from 647.5 million to 662.4 million monthly uniques. Both numbers tend to skew higher than any other services, although the trend comScore is showing matches data from other services.

Similarly, MySpace fell from 54.4 million to 50.1 million in the US and from 81.5 million to 79.5 million worldwide. Twitter fell slightly from 24.0 to 23.6 million monthly uniques in the US, but grew by around 2 million worldwide. Among Facebook’s competitors (at least in the English language), Twitter’s worldwide growth is the most notable.

Google Ad Planner

While the metrics don’t match up perfectly, Google property DoubleClick pulls from Google Analytics and other services to present a generally good look at what’s happening for other web sites around the world. Facebook, in this case, rose from 590 million uniques in November to around 600 million in December. Meanwhile, daily unique visitors (as based on browser cookies) appeared to stay roughly flat at slightly below 300 million. Facebook has said that around half its users log in daily and this data seems to still be backing that up.

Quantcast

Similar to Compete, Quantcast shows Facebook with nearly 134 million monthly unique visitors in the US in December. Note its weekly graphs indicate a solid rise to 135 million right before Christmas, then a drop, then a slight increase at the turn of the year.

MySpace continued its decline to 28.6 million and Twitter grew to 81.6 million; neither of those numbers are anywhere near what others show, but the directions at least seem to match.

Conclusion

We tracked Facebook gaining around 9 million US users in December to reach 145.7 million monthly actives, so above Compete and Quantcast but below comScore, based on Facebook’s advertising tool. Our worldwide tracked data showed 585.5 million — also below the other available world numbers.

Following a year where Facebook would register across-the-board gains in the millions, December seemed slow. But as we mentioned before, preliminary January data seems to be showing a lot more growth. In the US, it added more than 3 million to reach 148.9 million, for example, according to the ad tool.

Inside Facebook Gold includes our country and region breakdowns of growth, as well as ad rates, demographics, and languages, if you want to get more detail on the monthly trends. Meanwhile, stay tuned for the March version of this article to see what short-term trends go long.