[Editor’s Note: The following article presents analysis using data from Inside Facebook Gold, our data membership service tracking Facebook’s traffic growth and demographic landscape in global markets.]
Facebook has recovered from a widely-noted June slowdown in the United States. The social network sprang back into action in July, adding more than three million monthly active users across all demographics.
Last month, we noted that Facebook had actually lost users in some age groups — especially users aged 18-44, with the younger end of that range showing the steepest decline. This month, it appears that the 18-25 category recouped its losses by leading growth across all age groups.
However, the growth numbers alone don’t tell the full story of July’s growth, because Facebook has traditionally had more users in their late teens and twenties; the 18-34 segment accounts for over half of Facebook’s userbase. Thus, it’s easier for that same group to add or lose larger numbers on a monthly basis, as users come and go.
That dominance by the 18-34 group is changing over time — this month we’ve recorded a drop for the 18-25 segment from 29 to 28 percent of all Facebook users, with the 13-17 group picking up the extra point — but only very slowly. The numbers also show that while the 18-44 group that lost users in June has now added users in July, it’s doing so at a slower rate than 13-17 and 45-65 age groups.
Finally, when we looked at audience growth by gender, although women on Facebook still outnumber men on the site in the U.S., men led growth across every age range.
These broad trends suggest several ways to read July’s growth. One is that Facebook’s audience is simply becoming more reflective of the overall population over time. Early on, Facebook was dominated by users aged 18-34 and had more women then men.
An alternative reading is that Facebook’s persistent privacy issues, real or not, have turned away some younger users — if this dynamic made an impact last month, it does not appear large enough to have done so again. However, it’s difficult to get an accurate picture of what the broader population thinks of privacy on Facebook; and even if some users have left over it, their departure could easily be lost in the noise of millions of other users coming and going.
A third and final reason could be that Facebook is simply hitting saturation boundaries for the entire US, beyond which its growth will be lower than we’ve seen in the past. The US is now at 42.1 percent penetration in terms of total population; among large countries, only the United Kingdom is higher.
Long-term, Facebook’s growth in the US does appear to be on a slow decline. Here’s a look at growth rates since January 2010:
Fortunately for Facebook, there are still vast global markets to be tapped; and while the US may often lead monthly growth even in the future, its gains are far outweighed by the aggregate additions of the rest of the world.
The full data cited in this article is available through Inside Facebook Gold, our research and data membership that also includes monthly snapshots of Facebook’s total global audience, demographic splits, and language usage in major country markets around the world. To learn more or join, please visit Inside Facebook Gold.